April 15, 2008
Under the theme “A Better Workplace,” The Department of Labour in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) recently held a one day workshop which focused on contractors and employees awareness of the labour laws of Nevis. The event was held at the Red Cross conference room in Charlestown.
Premier of Nevis Hon. Joseph Parry used the session to bring some of the core issues unique to workplaces on the island and the fight against crime, two of the NIA’s main priorities since it took office.
He established that the employees on the island operated without a workers union but have been represented by the Department of Labour in the NIA.
Premier Parry indicated that some of the main responsibilities of the Department were to identify jobs, their availability, conditions in the workplace and wages.
Mr. Parry also spoke of the drawbacks the workforce encountered in his personal experience before the rise of Nevis‘ working families.
“One of my first experiences with labour was in the period of 1978-1980, when I worked for Social Security and I noticed that quite often construction workers would have a team of 20 men and the employees registered with Social Security were released from their duties. This puzzled me because whenever I spoke to those who were released they seemed not to be concerned and I tried getting them to understand they would regret this during their retirement age,” he said.
He further noted that the Department would protect all workers who were legally employed regardless of their nationality status but however advised workers to conduct themselves in accordance with the rules and regulations of their employers. He also admonished to employers to establish good working relations in the workplace.
Mr. Parry said that in the hotel industry complaints were made about employees who pilfered from their employers. He advised workers to give honest days work in order to earn an honest days wage and cited that once they abided by such tenants you would receive the Department’s representation.
“Workers must not be disadvantaged. An investor, a businessman, or an employer is expected to make a profit and if the business was not making a profit from the business it would fail. However, the Department and the government would ensure workers are treated fairly,” he said.
Freedom of expression in the workplace was another issue Premier Parry underscored to be important for workers. He said Nevis had always been a growing democracy and workers who experienced work related problems should respectfully be allowed to express their grievances without fear.
The booming construction industry on Nevis was another important matter discussed at the workshop. Premier Parry indicated that several projects were in progress and more work was projected based on the various road projects and villa and hotel developments slated for 2008-2009.
The Premier said as a result of a boom in the construction industry on Nevis, contractors have indicated that they have experienced a number of vacancies in every areas of the industry.
“Contractors approached me to say they can’t find workers on Nevis and they need workers from overseas,” he said
Mr. Parry explained that his Administration had planned to approach the problem with two solutions. He said the government would identify students graduated from High School and offer them training in the rudiments of construction at a technical institution in the region. He also revealed that 15 young persons were identified for training from a pool of young leaders, gangs and other groups.
The other solution considered by the NIA to fill the vacancies created by the industry’s increased projects, was to make available work permits for trained construction workers from neighbouring Caribbean islands.
Despite the NIA’s decision to open its doors to foreign workers, the Premier noted that skilled workers who entered Nevis legally were expected to abide by the laws of the land and work in harmony with nationals.