Minister of State with responsibility for Employment, Labour Relations and the Social Partnership, Senator Arni Walters

Labour practitioners must be careful of changes in the global economy which could have a profound impact on the fundamental rights at work.

This is the view of Minister of State with responsibility for Employment, Labour Relations and the Social Partnership, Senator Arni Walters, who has observed that high fuel and food prices and uncertainty in the financial markets were presenting challenges for both developed and developing countries. These in turn, he said, had severe implications for the labour sector.

Speaking during the 97th session of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, recently, the Minister stressed the need to safeguard the gains made by the labour movement, particularly in the area of “Decent Work.”

He urged that structural changes in employment must be carefully monitored, including the restructuring of enterprises, extensive privatisation and outsourcing and sub-contracting arrangements.

“These situations undeniably can lead to behaviours which may be unscrupulous, exploitative, allow for the creation of new types of employment relationships and, importantly, behaviours which affect the exercise of the principles and rights of freedom of association, collective bargaining and, overall, the fundamental rights at work,” he said.

The Senator pointed out that these changes would require the strengthening of the capabilities and capacities of related institutions including Ministries of Labour and subsequent departments, workers’ or employers’ organisations and units responsible for labour-management relations.

“This strengthening will be critical not only to ensure that the rights of workers and employers are neither minimised nor compromised…but to ensure industrial democracy, stability, harmony and the enhancement of competitiveness.”

Senator Walters stressed that the ILO had a critical role to play in the strengthening process. “The ILO will need to provide technical support in various areas based on the identified and assessed needs of its constituents. And this is precisely why we in the Caribbean are requesting that urgent consideration be given to strengthening the Sub-regional Office in Trinidad and Tobago, so that it can carry out the technical support the sub-region requires… We hope this plea will be heard,” he implored.

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