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Minister of Labour, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo. (FP)??

The implications of a country’s labour standards on trade and investment?? was the topic of discussion this morning, when the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) hosted a workshop on The Role of Labour Standards in Accessing International Markets and Supporting the Caribbean Single Market at Island Inn Hotel, Aquatic Gap.

Describing Barbados as an island where labour standards form part of a strong legislative and regulatory framework, Minister of Labour, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo said that: "The discussion on the impact of labour standards on trade and investment is not new and in fact, the concerns regarding labour standards and foreign investment and trade particularly in relation to multi-national companies resulted in the formulation of the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration)." She explained, that the Declaration offered guidelines to multi-national companies, governments, and employers’ and workers’ organisations in such areas as training and industrial relations.??

In this age of globalisation, the Labour Minister noted that, it was essential for "countries which form part of the Caribbean Single Market, to understand, implement and enforce core labour standards," since this was important to facilitate extra-regional trade development. For this reason, she pointed out, it was government’s responsibility to ratify relevant legislation, and employers had to understand and embrace the necessity of having labour standards. ????

Making reference to a programme which would further develop Barbados in this regard, Senator Byer Suckoo said she was pleased to hear that the European Commission through its Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to support Civil Society in the Caribbean, had initiated a project which is due to commence next January.??

"The ILO has joint management of the third component of the project focusing specifically on employer and worker representative organisations at regional and national levels through a Contribution Agreement with CARIFORUM," she said, adding that the workshop served to raise awareness about the EPA project.

With the decent work agenda always relevant to discussions such as these, Minister Byer Suckoo reported that Barbados has ratified 39 ILO Conventions, which address rights including freedom of association, collective bargaining and non-discrimination in employment.

"Our legislative agenda has been informed by these core labour standards and in the short-term includes proclamation of the Employment Rights Act most likely next month, the Sexual Harassment in the Workplace legislation within the next months, ??Anti-discrimination in the Workplace legislation and the establishment of the Minimum Wage Board. In the next few weeks my ministry will focus on ensuring that employers and employees are made aware of their rights and responsibilities under the Employment Rights Act.

"These standards have been enshrined in our practice, certainly in the post-Independence period; but Barbados is changing, cultural norms are not the norms any more. The players are changing. Many suggest that we need to codify all our customs and practices, including trade union recognition, into legislation. But I also posit, that while we move to do this, no amount of legislation can replace decency. The golden rule, ???do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ is still the best rule in all relationships, including industrial relationships," she stressed.

nekaelia.hutchinson@barbados.gov.bb

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