Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan (right) greets President of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, Cedric Murrell at their recent courtesy call while CTUSAB General Secretary, Dennis Depeiza and Chief Labour Officer, Victor Felix, look on. (B.Hinds/BGIS)

Labour representatives can count on this island’s Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan to keep relations at a respectable level.

This was intimated recently as Minister Jordan engaged in wide-ranging talks with President of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), Cedric Murrell and General Secretary, Dennis Depeiza.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Yolande Howard, also attended the meeting, the first in a series of talks between the Ministry and workers’ representatives, to be held at the Minister’s office in the Warrens Office Complex, Warrens, St. Michael. It focused, among other things, on issues related to the Social Partnership and CTUSAB’s relationship with the Ministry and within the tripartite system.

Minister Jordan, in outlining the role of a proposed Social Justice Committee in the context of the Social Partnership, noted that with an IMF programme looming, Government was hoping to lessen the impact for vulnerable persons.

He said: “We are determined that the burden cannot fall squarely on the shoulders of workers. So businesses have to step up to the plate. We know that sometimes business, in efforts to recoup, then put workers on the frontline.

“Those kinds of issues are best managed when other players sit around the table and identify where the vulnerabilities are [such as] who is being impacted and how we are going to mitigate… We need to ensure that in all we do to wrestle this problem, people don’t fall through the cracks. We have made a commitment. Workers are not going to be at the forefront.”

CTUSAB’s President, in commending Government’s efforts thus far, noted that Barbados’ approach to the tripartite system, since 1991, had been good and with no interest in devaluation of the currency that could spur dire consequences.

However, Mr. Murrell pointed out that, as a mechanism, the Social Partnership was devoid of research capabilities to support some of the decisions taken and urged Government to consider establishing a secretariat to ensure these could be implemented in a timely manner.  He also noted the Congress was yearning for the day that labour, within the construct of the Social Partnership, would “come to the table as a united voice”.

The President also registered his concerns with the operations of the Employment Rights Tribunal, noting that the perception was that it was “not turning over fast enough and really not helping the worker”. Emphasising that the view was that it could function better, he said: “Hopefully we can unclog this so that people do feel the Employment Rights Tribunal serves the interest of justice.”

In summing up, Minister Jordan agreed they should all be working towards a united front and assured CTUSAB that his Ministry was already seeking to reconstitute the tribunal and review legislation against the backlog of cases. He also noted that emphasis would be placed on performance management in the public sector and tackling the lack of interest in industrial relations through training and capacity building.

Discussion also centred on a review of Protocol Seven that informs the Social Partnership, educating the public on this document and the need for additional staffing within the Ministry to support not only the tripartite body but new and revised legislation.

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