|Section : Background|
There has been a shift in the approach to productivity and international competitiveness. The traditional approaches to productivity and international competitiveness have been based largely on low labour costs, poor employment conditions, and other labour savings approaches. In this context all that mattered was controlling costs and in this, the control of labour cost was seen as the key, sometimes to the exclusions of all else.
The focus on the productivity of labour has proved to be short sighted. Instead, it is becoming clear that there needs to be a focus on total factor productivity - labour, land, raw materials, energy, capital etc. In addition, the relative importance of any of these depends on the firm’s production patterns.
The International Labour Organization advocates the “High Road” to productivity and competitiveness which ensures that service and product delivery is developed and improved mainly through enhanced flexibility, speed, innovation and creativity of people.
The emphasis of the high road approach on human resource is clear. However, historically, human resources development in Caribbean enterprises has been affected by an adversarial industrial relations climate. Because of this industrial relations climate, there has been a legacy of mistrust and inharmonious management-labour relations within enterprises which decrease productivity and competitiveness.
To achieve competitiveness firms can no longer rely merely on cutting the cost of labour. Rather “management has to be able to harness the firms’ capacity for innovation, as well as to utilise technology and human resources and translate these into efficient work organisation.
The observance of international labour standards is an essential element in achieving a workplace in which there is a sustainable building of economic, human and social capital. International Labour Standards should therefore be viewed not as a cost element in the production process, but rather as an investment to maximize the benefit of the enterprise’s human resources.
PROMALCO in fulfilling its mandate to contribute to the Caribbean business case for the high road has identified great relevance of international labour standards. Indeed, it is argued that for enterprises to sustain, be profitable and competitive in the emerging international production and trading patterns international labour standards should occupy a central position.
Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that rather than approaching international labour standards as a luxury for enterprises in developed countries or even larger enterprises in developing countries, ILS may be viewed as an imperative for small and medium sized firms in developing countries.
This guide is designed to assist management and workers in determining jointly the most effective way for Caribbean enterprises to implement and adhere to International Labour Standards as an effective way of tackling the new challenges of globalisation and trade liberalisation.
The guide highlights the key provisions of the conventions, recommendations and codes of practice that have special relevance to supporting and sustaining enterprise productivity, competitiveness and profitability in the face of the new rules of the game that are developing in the international system.
As countries and enterprises of the Caribbean have to rely more and more on their own efforts to win and keep international markets, both labour and management need to be aware of and know how to use all the tools that are available to them. We believe that international labour standards are one such important tool.
The guide therefore has been developed with both labour and management in mind. It seeks to encourage social partners in the workplace to:
The guide is divided into
three chapters which focus on different aspects of the ILS and its link to
productivity and competitiveness. Each chapter will be broken into modules
with specific learnings completed with summary points or questions as the