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Opposition concerned about lack of focus on labour market reform

Balford Henry

Thursday, February 27, 2014    

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PRESIDENT of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) Senator Kavan Gayle has expressed concern about the limited reference to Labour Market Reform (LMR) in the Fiscal Policy Paper's (FPP) interim report which was tabled in Parliament recently by the minister of finance and planning.

Senator Gayle said that the FPP Interim Report for 2013/14, tabled in December, only referred to LMR in a single paragraph, stating that it was definitely on the books for implementation this fiscal year.

However, he noted that despite this commitment, the financial year is only weeks from closing and it is very unlikely that anything can be done in terms of the LMR process, including passage of the amendments to five Bills to facilitate implementation of flexible work arrangements based on a white paper tabled in Parliament.

The Bills, which are expected to be amended are: The Apprenticeship (Amendment) Bill; the Holiday (Public General) Amendment Bill; the Minimum Wage (Amendment) Bill; the Shops and Office (Amendment) Bill; and the Women (Employment of) (Amendment) Bill. Although they have been included in the Government's legislation programme since 2012/13, they have not been brought to the House and there is no indication when they will be tabled.

But Gayle said that even the tabling of the Bills at this late stage would not be enough to ensure a successful LMR implementation as they would not address issues such as educating, re-skilling and upgrading the labour force which, he said, must be combined with active labour market policies to support the transition to new employment.

"Workers should not be left on their own to bear the brunt of adjustment cost, career guidance and training," the Opposition senator said.

He stated that a tripartite body of Government, employers and workers would be able to coalesce to create a platform squarely focused on this effort.

"Education and skills development must be integrated into the broad framework of national economic and social development, in order to achieve their potential to contribute to national growth," Senator Gayle said.

"I cannot emphasise enough, not that we can or we may, but that we must create a better educated and skilled workforce if we are serious about the Labour Market Reform process and we must focus on skills development, as well as research and analysis," he said.

Senator Gayle added that the platform would manifest how skills development could become an important tool for reducing poverty and exclusion, and enhance competitiveness and employability.

The motion, which was eventually amended, asked that the Senate examine the efficacy and the resolve of the platform, with a view to making recommendations to the Government regarding their inclusion in the LMR agenda and that the Senate recommend that the platform develop a programme to address Jamaica's productivity levels and unemployment rate to ensure that Jamaica gains a competitive edge in the global economy and that it is done as a matter of urgency.

It was unanimously approved by the Senate.

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