Trade unionist sees need for focus on emerging work policies

Trade unionist sees need for focus on emerging work policies

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, December 15, 2019

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Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) President Senator Kavan Gayle has tabled a resolution in the Senate, seeking support for policies aimed at strengthening the capacity of Jamaicans workers to benefit from the emerging changing world of work.

Senator Gayle's resolution reads:

“BE IT RESOLVED, that this Honourable Senate expresses and commits it's support towards the setting up of established policies aimed at strengthening the capacities of all people to benefit from the opportunities of a changing world of work.

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Senate calls on the Government to establish a National Commission, comprising of targeted stakeholders, to examine the issues surrounding the future world of work with a view to making relevant recommendations for the institution and implementation of an appropriate policy framework in this regard.”

The resolution contends that there is an ongoing transformative change occurring in the world of work, driven by technological innovations, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, globalisation, environmental and climate change and demographic shifts in labour policies which have created profound impact on the current nature and future of work.

He said that it is imperative for Jamaica to act with urgency to seize the opportunities that will emerge and address the challenges to shape a fair, inclusive and secure future of work with full, productive and freely chosen employment and decent work for all.

He added that securing the future of work will be fundamental to the sustainable development of Jamaica, in line with Vision 2030, to ensure effective transitional mechanisms that can harness the fullest potential of technological progress and productivity growth, which includes the acquisition of skills, competencies and qualification for workers throughout their working lives.

Gayle said that technology is driving most of these changes currently taking in the business sector, while the businesses have been investing heavily in technology, especially in the service sector.

“So what we have to do as a country is that our labour force and our labour market must evolve around these changes,” he stated.

“Most of our employment now is by multinationals, so the country needs to attract the level of investment which can create the employment, because with the changes that are taking place we have to shape our labour force to be able to evolve around these changes or face the consequences of artificial intelligence and new technology,” he noted.

“We have to train our workers to adapt to this revolution. Where that discussion should start is in the schools, and we have to develop the type of curriculum that would be able to prepare them for these emerging trends,” he added.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness often referred to the issue of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and has suggested a shift in focus to STEM schools where students are trained to understand the new technologies as well as institutions like the HEART Trust to provide the skills that will be needed in this new era.

Gayle believes that by setting up a national commission, falling under the portfolio of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the country would be better equipped to encourage the necessary level of collaboration for success in training.

“The key issue is that the workforce has to continue being reskilled and upskilled, to ensure a fair transition. Skills training is important because you can have certification, but what the employers will be looking for is the skill set and the ability to adapt to change,” he added.

German Professor Klaus Schwab wrote the books – The Fourth Industrial Revolution (2016), a worldwide bestseller translated into 30 languages, and Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution (2018) - which has placed this revolution on the agenda of global institutions like the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Schwab is a German-born professor of business policy formerly at the University of Geneva (1972 to 2002), who has since 1979 been publishing the Global Competitiveness Report, an annual report assessing the potential for increasing productivity and economic growth of countries around the world.

The report is based on a methodology developed by Schwab, measuring competitiveness, not only in terms of productivity but also based on sustainability. The most recent edition of Global Competitiveness Report, for 2018, assessed 140 economies using a new methodology emphasising the role of human capital, innovation, resilience and agility, as not only drivers but also defining features of economic success in the fourth Industrial Revolution.

As a result, the GCI scale changed to one to 100 from one to seven, with higher average score meaning higher degree of competitiveness. The report is made up of 98 variables organised into 12 pillars with the most important including: institutions; infrastructure; ICT adoption; macroeconomic stability; health; skills; product market; labour market; financial system; market size; business dynamism; and innovation capability.

Senator Gayle said that the change of focus means that trade unions and, eventually, the whole collective bargaining process will have to shift focus.

He said that he sincerely hopes that newly merged HEART Trust will be able to play a major role in terms of education, training and development.

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