Trinidad and Tobago initiates social dialogue discussions: learns from Caribbean and Mauritius experiences
10 July 2012
Port of Spain (ILO News) - Trinidad and Tobago has started the process of institutionalizing social dialogue at the national level. The Government and the social partners – employers’ and workers’ organizations - pledged their commitment to national social dialogue at the Workshop on the Social Dialogue Process for Trinidad and Tobago on 26-27 June 2012 at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre in Port-of-Spain. The Workshop was hosted by the Ministry of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development, with technical support of the International Labour Organization.
Social Dialogue, as defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO), refers to all types of negotiation, consultation or simply exchange of information between, or among, representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy.
Held under the theme “Towards People-centred Development: Social Dialogue as the Key Driver” the Workshop benefited from the country experiences of Aruba, Barbados, Jamaica and Mauritius in establishing and implementing national social dialogue institutional frameworks. The perspectives of government, employers and workers were shared.
The basis of the Barbados Social Partnership are six Protocols or Agreements signed since the 1990s, and which cover national economic and social issues, while Aruba’s Social Dialogue Body was created in 2010 with nine Protocols signed. Both countries have had high-level support from the Government and social partners. Mauritius established a National Tripartite Forum for effective social dialogue on labour and industrial matters. Jamaica’s tripartite representatives also shared their experiences on the use of effective social dialogue.
The Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, formally opened the workshop on 26 June 2012 and said that the workshop was an historic occasion for Trinidad and Tobago.
“As we celebrate our 50th Anniversary of Independence this year, it is indeed significant that we work towards the establishment of a new platform of engagement, “ said the Prime Minister. “The drivers of economic growth, social well-being and national development , have been, and must emanate from the collaborative effort of government, workers, employers and other social partners. “
Also speaking at the Opening was the Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mrs. Elizabeth Tinoco, who reiterated that social dialogue was a tool and means for achieving decent work in the Caribbean.
“The main concern today is how to promote sustained economic growth that creates jobs, “ said Mrs. Tinoco. “Given the economic context, the ILO’s Global Jobs Pact identifies a set of policies and measures aimed at consolidating a path of economic growth with decent work. “
She added that the Global Jobs Pact considers social dialogue and tripartism as the most appropriate method for translating economic development into social progress, facilitating consensus-building and making labour law and institutions effective.
“It is also necessary to establish a virtuous circle that allows for expanding both the overall wage and consumption capacity, with competitiveness in expert activities, “stated Mrs. Tinoco. “It requires having much greater labour productivity in exporting segments as well as in other productive chains, especially in SMEs, considering their relevance in creating jobs and how they contribute to transitioning from informality to formality and by properly balancing productivity, wages and employment in order to reduce volatility and sustain a more stable economic growth”.
Discussions at the workshop focused on institutionalizing social dialogue, the responsibilities of the social partners, the roadmap for future actions, based on the lessons learnt from the countries’ experiences, and the resources necessary to establish and sustain the social dialogue process.
Speaking at the closing of the workshop, the Honourable Errol McLeod, Minister of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development said, “The Reports of the Working Groups provide very good and useful guidance in moving forward. Already we have indications of what our social partners consider as priority issues and elements of an effective institutional framework. ..the outcomes of our discussions will form the basis of further dialogue and the development of an implementation plan. “
Mrs. Tinoco pledged the ILO’s technical support to assist the tripartite partners in the process and to continue to facilitate south-south cooperation in the context of Small Island Developing States.
Other Ministers presenting and pledging support at the workshop included Senator the Honourable Larry Howai, Minister of Finance and the Economy and Senator Dr. The Honourable Bhoendradatt Tewarie, Minister of Planning.
There was representation from a wide cross section of ministries and employers’ and workers’ organizations, including the Employers' Consultative Association of Trinidad and Tobago, the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the National Trade Union Centre and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non-Governmental Organizations.
Several countries, including those in the Caribbean have been seeking solutions to the global economic and financial crisis through the effective use of social dialogue.
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