More collaboration needed among labour ministers for region’s benefit – Min. Hamilton tells ILO meeting

Significant frameworks must be set to enable greater collaboration among the Caribbean ministers of labour on various issues to ensure that more people benefit equitably from the opportunities available.

This was highlighted by Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton at the opening ceremony of the 12th Meeting of Caribbean Ministers of Labour held on Tuesday at the Marriott Hotel, Kingston. 

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Government of Guyana are hosting the meeting from May 23rd – 25th, 2023, under the theme, ‘Social Justice: The Foundation for Sustainable Caribbean Transformation.’

Minister Hamilton underlined that the topics for discussion at the meeting are crucial and particularly relevant at this point.

Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton

“I am expecting outcomes that would see us not only collaborating on the various issues but also having exchange programmes with each other’s ministries and a reinvention of our technical education programme to ensure that more persons will benefit from seeing. There must be a road map as to where we go from here at the end of this important meeting. Otherwise, we will be failing our people who are expecting much more from us,” the labour minister noted.

ILO has been extremely supportive to the ministry in its efforts to promote social justice and a decent work agenda in Guyana. 

As part of its collaborative efforts over the years, Minister Hamilton highlighted that the ILO has provided technical assistance to the ministry.

A section of the 12th Meeting of Caribbean Ministers of Labour

“With the assistance, we were able to develop and integrate a decent work country programme, which has contributed to positive development in industrial relations, occupational safety and health (OSH), cooperative recruitment and placement services, enhancement of technical training for young people to enter the workforce…We look forward to greater collaboration in the future not only with the ILO but with our colleagues who are part of this meeting,” the minister said.

Meanwhile, Director of ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean, Dennis Zulu emphasised that the meeting is designed to provide the platform to prioritise and discuss social justice as the foundation for a sustainable Caribbean transformation.

Director of ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean, Dennis Zulu 

Social justice enables equitable access to opportunities thus reducing the quality to boost productivity, build socio-economic security and enable just transitions. 

“Social justice reduces inequalities. It promotes social access to equal opportunities in the labour markets, irrespective of factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic background…Social justice can counteract the consequential inequalities through policies and practices that ensure non-discrimination and equal treatment for a more inclusive and fair labour market,”Zulu underlined.

He noted that social justice also empowers greater skills development in education.

With the skills gap becoming more evident in the pandemic recovery, it can provide equitable access to quality education, technical and vocational training programmes, and skills development opportunities to better equip people to fulfill the demands in the labour market.  

Zulu emphasised that the discussions will culminate in the session for action in the ILO technical assistance 2024-2025 biennium.

“As you work together to mobilise social justice for more cohesive and effective Caribbean society and economies, I encourage you to determine how it can increase our productive capacities to reduce inequalities and advance inclusive and sustainable growth,” he said.

The meeting acts as a venue for interaction with significant regional partners, labour migration, the establishment of priorities and key initiatives for ILO support for Just Transition in the 2024–2025 biennium, and the creation of frameworks for Quality Apprenticeship. 

ILO members at the meeting

The meeting will include the participation of Ministers of Labour and senior officials from 13 ILO member States and nine non-metropolitan territories in the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean.  

This is the third time an ILO meeting of this nature is being hosted in Guyana (1998, 2010, and 2023). 

Senior Minister in the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, Minister of Public Service, Sonia Parag, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud, Minister of Housing and Water, Collin Croal, and Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Charles Ramson Jr. were present at the event.

Also, present were Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir, Chief Executive Officer of Guyana Invest, Dr Peter Ramsaroop, British High Commissioner to Guyana Jane Miller, India’s High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr K. J Srinivasa, Permanent Secretary of the labour ministry, Bishram Kuppen, CEO (ag) of the Board of Industrial Training, Saskia Eastman-Onwuzirike, United Nations Resident Coordinator to Guyana Yesim Oruc, and other members of the diplomatic corps.