Government of Trinidad and

Statement by the Deputy Permanent Secretary (Ag.) at the "Future of Work in Trinidad and Tobago: Why Does Decent Work Matter?"

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago - Monday 06 May 2019

Last week Friday, 03 May 2019, Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary Kevar Cummings-Williams delivered the following statement at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Employers Consultative Association's (ECA) Breakfast Meeting on the "Future of Work in Trinidad and Tobago: Why Does Decent Work Matter?" at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad. 

Ladies and gentlemen.

A pleasant good morning. It is indeed an honour for me to address this esteemed gathering here today on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. As we approach the Centenary of this great Institution, the ILO, I wish to reaffirm Trinidad and Tobago’s commitment to the Decent Work Agenda and the realization of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. I am certain that we all are eagerly looking forward to the vibrant discussions to take place today as we engage with each other, key stakeholders, on the decent work agenda for Trinidad and Tobago, in a manner which facilitates more targeted exchanges, cross-fertilisation of ideas and, indeed, exploration of new perspectives on the future of work and the world of work.

We are witnessing at the present time unprecedented technological developments which are shaping and re-shaping our lives in ways that were only imagined in the past. Mobile communication devices, wearable technology and artificial intelligence, for example, have had significant transformative impact on personal and professional lives. Such developments require us therefore to give very careful consideration to the future of work.

In this regard, this Meeting presents the distinctive opportunity for social partners to consolidate an integrated approach to addressing pertinent labour issues. As we continue to work to promote social dialogue, inclusive growth, sustainable livelihoods and decent work for all, the need for enhanced collaboration and co-operation is therefore indeed underlined.

I wish to take this opportunity to commend the Global High Level Commission of the Future of Work on its comprehensive and thought-provoking 2019 Report. This cogently articulated Report delineates key matters germane to the realization of a more prosperous, equitable future with inclusive growth, greater social justice, productive employment and decent work for all across the Caribbean, the Americas and the global economy, all of which are integral to our conversations today.

The Report further championed a human-centred approach to the future of work by placing people and the work they do at the centre of economic and social policy and business practice. This commitment is also entrenched in the national policy framework of Trinidad and Tobago which is evidenced by its articulation in our National Development Strategy commonly referred to as Vision 2030, Government’s Official Policy Framework, and the National Performance Framework, more specifically, under the first Development Theme of Vision 2030 - Putting People First – Nurturing our Greatest Assets. This Theme acknowledges that our citizens are central to our development and in fact are our greatest assets. It reflects Trinidad and Tobago’s commitment to create a society in which all the basic needs are met and each individual is valued and given the opportunity to realise their aspirations and contribute positively to our nation’s development. Indeed, similar to the human-centred approach to the future of work, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago aspires to ensure that our society evolves into one in which no one is left behind, where all citizens are afforded equal opportunity to access social services and decent work, and all our citizens, including the most vulnerable, such as our children and youth, are cared for and treated with dignity and respect.

For us in Trinidad and Tobago, our own economic and social circumstances have indeed posed challenges, yet we have continued to place as priority the welfare of the people of Trinidad and Tobago in developing our responses. In this regard, the Ministry has held tripartite and multi-partite stakeholder consultations in the areas of co-operative development, industrial relations, retrenchment and severance benefits, contract employment, reform of labour legislation and the basic terms and conditions of work. Social dialogue has been the plank of our deliberations and has proven to be a vehicle for building consensus and synergy among the various actors in society.

In this regard, and in line with the human-centred approach to the future of work, I am pleased to take this opportunity to illustrate just a few recent accomplishments of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in promoting social dialogue, freedom of association, social security and decent work for all. Reflecting on the ongoing need to update labour legislation to meet the requirements of international labour standards, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has embarked on an impressive labour legislative reform process via a national tripartite consultative process.

Key instruments include the Industrial Relations Act, Chapter 88:01; Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, chapter 88:13; the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Chapter 88:08, to name a few. We also implemented a novel and multidimensional National Workplace Policy on Sexual Harassment, a comprehensive National Workplace Policy on HIV and Aids for Trinidad and Tobago as well as successfully executed public sensitization programmes to address child labour and to promote the rights of domestic workers. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is also in the process of developing national policies on labour migration, the elimination of child labour and a National Employment Standards Policy Framework.

In the spirit of regional cooperation, we will also continue to collaborate with our fellow Caribbean Community Members and our hemispheric partners across the Latin American and Americas Region. As we look to the future, I am optimistic that our nations and our Region will continue to be strengthened as we stand united and committed to achieving our shared development objectives.

In closing, I hope we can all embrace the inspiring words of the recently deceased Mr Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and I quote, “More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together”.

I thank you.