Minister of Labour, Dr. Esther Byer-Suckoo

Minister of Labour, Dr. Esther Byer-Suckoo, has been addressing the 99th Session of the International Labour Conference, updating the gathering on key International Labour Organisation (ILO) issues as they relate to Barbados, including HIV/AIDS in the workplace, domestic workers and strategic employment.

ILO members – government, workers and employers – have been meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, from June 2 to 18 to, among other things, deliberate on the articles relating to an ILO Recommendation on HIV/AIDS in the workplace and to commence discussions on an ILO instrument on domestic workers.

In her first address to the gathering as Barbados’ Labour Minister, Dr. Byer Suckoo noted that the island subscribed to the ILO Decent Work Agenda and that decent work for domestic workers was as fundamental as any other area of employment.??

Barbados was among the majority of ILO member states supporting the proposal for a convention and recommendation to address the working conditions of domestic workers. The proposed ILO standard will bring into focus the real value of the work done by domestic employees.

It is expected that the ILO will adopt a convention and recommendation on Domestic Workers at its Conference in 2011. A convention is a binding instrument of the ILO while a recommendation is more akin to a guideline for member states.

Members are expected to ratify ILO conventions while they are encouraged to incorporate recommendations into their laws and regulations.

Barbados has already begun the process of examining the working conditions of domestic employees and it is envisaged that the proposed Employment Rights Bill will offer greater protection to all workers in Barbados, including domestic employees.

Minister Byer Suckoo lauded the ILO and its membership on the adoption of a recommendation on HIV/AIDS in the work place, pointing out that Barbados was working towards creating anti-discrimination legislation relating to HIV/AIDS.

She noted that successive administrations in Barbados had placed HIV/AIDS as a priority on the national agenda, citing the reduction in the mother-to-child transmission rate of HIV and the decrease in the mortality rate of persons living with HIV/AIDS, as two achievements of the Barbados programme.??

The Labour Minister also gave Barbados’ full support to the ILO for continuing to promote and place employment at the "heart of social and economic policies".

She indicated that employment was the bedrock of a modern, functioning economy, providing a worker with a sense of independence and belonging.?? At the macro level, Dr. Byer Suckoo added that it was critical to national productivity and competitiveness, and was vital in the struggle against poverty.??

She stressed that employment was, therefore, an area for urgent widespread discussion, particularly when the global economic crisis and the accompanying contraction in global output were taken into account.

The Labour Minister informed the audience that Government had actively engaged the Social Partners, that is, employers and workers, in devising responses aimed at mitigating the effects of the crisis on jobs.??

Dr. Byer Suckoo said Barbados had recognised that it was only through coordinated efforts that sustainable recovery would be realised.

She reported on several Government initiatives taken to mitigate the effects of the crisis and these included: the establishment of a fund to retrain displaced workers; a stimulus package for the tourism secto;, and the strengthening of Barbados’ social safety net mechanism to, among other things, deliver employment services to job seekers and encourage businesses to place employees on short-time or job sharing, rather than lay-offs.

Dr. Byer Suckoo also spoke of devising a medium-term development strategy for 2010-2014, which would place emphasis on economic recovery through increased productivity and job creation, the increasing access of Barbadians to overseas employment through the sourcing of business opportunities such as cruise tourism and the continued implementation of major capital infrastructural programmes.

The Barbados delegation to the 99th ILO Conference also included Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Martin Cox, Chief Labour Officer, Vincent Burnett, Executive Director of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation, Anthony Walcott, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), Sir Roy Trotman and Assistant General Secretary, BWU, Toni Moore.

Author: Andr?? Skeete

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