Job Market in St. Kitts – Nevis
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
February 11, 2012 (SKNIS)
Ensuring the best protection possible and fostering the best working relationship between employers and employees in St. Kitts and Nevis were the main focuses of two International Labour Organization (ILO) delegates who visited St. Kitts last Friday.
Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, a PhD in International Law and Director of International Labour Standards Department of the International Labour Organization (ILO), accompanied by International Labour Standards and Labour Law Specialist Mr. Pierre-Francois Recoing, met with a number of key persons regarding ILO matters including Labour Commissioner Mr. Spencer Amory.
According to Dr. Henry, the nature of their visit was primarily to engage in tripartite discussions into how St. Kitts and Nevis is dealing with the international standards to which it agreed from the almost 400 international treaties by which the ILO operate to deal with the world of work. They were also here to strengthen the mission and mandate of the ILO in promoting social justice.
“I’m here in St. Kitts to look at how I can support the government, and the employers and workers organizations in looking at what they have already achieved by ratifying nine of the ILO Conventions since St. Kitts and Nevis became a member state of the ILO in 1996, how can they better implement their obligations, or the issues that have been identified by the ILO monitoring bodies, and how we could help them close what I would call the implementation gap” explained Dr. Henry.
Dr. Henry sees one of her many tasks as being that of helping countries to move along the social staircase of improving protections and benefits for employees, and ensuring the sustainability of employers and their enterprises. In addition, she helps to identify gaps in this protection and propose suggestions as to how these gaps can be filled. She also identifies out-of-date instruments and gives the governing body of the ILO the relevant information to make adaptations and adjustments to the existing body of standards.
Dr Henry added that the ILO has a complex system of supervision which monitors how every country that joins the organization implements the obligations they undertake once they have signed on to certain international treaties. It also provides, through the department of International Labour Standards, technical assistance to countries encountering difficulties in compliance through legislative advice, awareness raising or training and capacity building.
Dr Henry said that although St. Kitts and Nevis has ratified eight ILO fundamental conventions dealing with areas such as non-discrimination, no child labour, no forced labour, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, there is still the need for strong unions and strong employers’ organizations with a very strong governance structure from government and a solid and strong labour administration to effectively monitor, supervise and inspect workplaces.
St. Kitts and Nevis is currently undergoing a Labour Law Reform process which is hoped, will not only close the implementation gap with regard to the ILO conventions that have already been ratified, but pave the way to ratifying other critical conventions that would give St. Kitts and Nevis the lead in continuing to support a positive investment climate.
The International Labour Organization has also been able to offer impactful advice to the region on the issue of freedom of movement within the region for employment.
“By the very fact that we have given them the model laws that would help support the single market,” said Dr. Henry, “I think through that process the ILO has given some guidance that all the legislation of CARICOM would then be in compliance with ILO ratified conventions, even if they have not been ratified, but would also support the single market.”
Dr. Henry also said governments of the Caribbean and the OECS region need to understand that the issue of labour rights is not just the business of the Ministry of Labour.
“We also need to make sure that all relevant parts of government are aware that Labour is not an issue of just the ministry of Labour, it’s a total issue. It’s an issue for the entire country, and the world of work is the engine” said Dr. Henry. “All of us work because we have a family behind us, we want to send our kids to school, we want our businesses to grow, we are part of what enterprises need, we are part of what feeds our family. “The world of work is tremendous,” she said, “in terms of its capacity, its flexibility, but also we’ve got to have the necessary institutions in place to enable it to be the engine of growth.”
Dr. Henry emphasized that countries need to train their workforces to be more productive and more client friendly, but at the same time make sure that workers have adequate protection in the workplace, because happy workers will ensure that the enterprise of which they are a part grows.
Dr. Henry also told SKNIS another good example of how the ILO has measured the effect of its body of standards in the workplace is the development of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention to see whether or not they continue to be responsive to the world of work. She also said the Caribbean region has much potential to become a reputable force in the maritime industry, but countries of this region need to invest in maritime advancement.
“What I would like from my part of the world is to ensure that Caribbean countries are not seen as rust buckets of this world,” said Dr. Henry, “As seen as meeting the minimum of international requirements, and my job is to support my Caribbean countries to raise the standards that they have, that they can become attractive flag states, create employment for our people, because we are one part of the world with some of the best educated group of people that I know in a small space,”
“We have naturally English speaking well educated people” she also said, “What we need to do though, is train our people to take the high end jobs, to become the ship engineers and the ship masters, to go into university and do ship engineering.”
On this trip to the Caribbean Dr. Henry and her colleague has made stops in Panama and Dominica, and after leaving St. Kitts will go on to Haiti.