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Reform critical if we are to properly develop economy

Gov't says commission to guide process; several laws to be amended

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, May 29, 2014    

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LABOUR Minister Derrick Kellier yesterday announced Government's plan to establish a commission to guide the country's labour market reform, which has been hampered by a growing number of issues over several years.

Kellier, who was making his sectoral debate presentation at Gordon House, said that the commission will be required to conduct consultations with relevant stakeholders relating to education and training, technology and innovation, labour policies and legislation, social protection, industrial relations and productivity.

He said that this is necessary as increased productivity, efficiency and competitiveness are critical to creating a labour force which is competitive, both locally and overseas.

"Our labour force is not competitive enough to enable industry in Jamaica to thrive in a manner to be globally competitive," the labour minister told the House.

He said that to stem this negative tide, his ministry was moving to amend several labour laws, notably: the Holidays with Pay Act; the Minimum Wage Act; the Foreign Nationals and Citizenship Employment Act; and the umbrella Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act.

The minister said major findings and recommendations from the commission's consultations would be used for further legislative amendments, and to generate policies and programmes to be implemented by the relevant ministries, departments and agencies.

He assured the House of Representatives that the actual composition and terms of reference of the commission would be announced soon.

Kellier yesterday tabled a National Employment Report, released by his ministry, which provided an analysis of labour market and employment trends, and pointed to the significance of Government's growth strategy, focusing on generating increased employment to turn around the current trend of "steadily increasing" unemployment.

According to the minister, the country's declining productivity levels was a major issue which needed to be addressed, particularly because of its negative impact on competitiveness.

Kellier recalled that he had launched the Productivity Revolution for Jamaica, two years ago, in recognition of the fact that economic growth in Jamaica over several decades has under-performed, relative to selected countries in the Caribbean, Latin America and the world. He said that the objective conditions necessitating the "revolution" remain a growing concern, and a critical reason why this initiative must succeed at all costs.

He said that the long-term goal of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, under his leadership, and in partnership with the trade unions, employers and various training agencies, such as HEART Trust/NTA, is to ensure that the Jamaican workforce becomes responsive, competitive and productive on a worldwide basis, by becoming certified, trained and flexible.

"... The reform of the Jamaican labour market is of critical importance if we are to properly develop the economy, so as to end the process of brain migration, stem the paucity of relevant skills set in relation to the demands of industry and, indeed, boost productivity," said Minister Kellier.

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