Jamaica doggedly pursues free movement of labour in Caricom

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter henryb@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 08, 2013

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DESPITE the reluctance of some Caribbean territories to do so, Jamaica continues to pursue the dream of freedom of movement among Caribbean Community (Caricom) states.


Last week, Minister of Labour and Social Security Derrick Kellier tabled a Bill to amend the Caribbean Community (Free Movement of Skilled Persons) Act, to broaden the categories of skilled nationals able to access jobs in regional countries.


The Bill provides for the introduction of a single certificate system, and seeks to implement fees to provide financing for administrative services for the processing and issue of qualifying certificates, as well as increased penalties to deter non-compliance with the Act.


The Bill's "Memorandum of Objects and Reasons" explains that the Caricom Free Movement of Skilled Persons Act established the legislative framework for the phased implementation of Jamaica's Treaty obligations under Articles 45 and 46 of the 2001 Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the instrument that brought Caricom into being in 1973.


The revised Treaty was itself implemented into domestic law by the Caribbean community Act, and Article 45 of the Revised Treaty commits member states to the goal of the free movement of nationals within the community. Article 46 obliges Jamaica and other member states to accord categories of community nationals the right to seek employment in their respective jurisdictions, and to establish appropriate legislative, administrative and procedural arrangements to facilitate movement of nationals into and within member state jurisdictions.


The Free Movement of Skilled Persons arises from an agreed Caricom policy that was originally separate, but related to the original Protocol II of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. That policy is enacted in legislation in all the Community member states, providing for the free movement of certain categories of skilled labour on qualifying for the CARICOM Skills Qualification, or skills certificate that theoretically removes the need for work permits across the region.


But critics have often claimed that the provision has been observed more in the breach in most territories, except Jamaica.


Eight categories of Caricom nationals are now eligible for free movement throughout the region: university graduates, media workers, artistes, musicians, sportspersons, managers, technical and supervisory staff attached to a company, and self-employed persons/service providers. In addition, the spouses and immediate dependent family members of these nationals will also be exempt from work permit requirements.


It was also agreed to allow, at a later stage, for free movement of tertiary-trained teachers and nurses; higglers, artisans, domestic workers and hospitality workers, pending the agreement of an appropriate certification.


The skills certificates are obtained from the requisite ministry, once all the essential documents/qualifications (which vary with each category of skilled persons) are handed in with an application.


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