HONOURABLE EDMUND ESTEPHANE
ON THE OCCASION OF THE CONSULTATION OF THE
JANUARY 27, 2009
THEME: Creating Balance in the Employee – Employer Relationship.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Information – Ms. Thecla Augustin
Representatives of the Trade Union Federation
Representatives of the National Workers Union
Representatives of St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture
Representatives of the St. Lucia Employers Federation
Representatives of the National Insurance Corporation
Representatives of the Attorney General’s Chambers
Representatives of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition
Representatives of the Ministry of Labour and the Labour Department
Ladies and Gentlemen
Ladies and gentlemen, as you are aware, the Labour Code has been the focus of much attention from the public.
In fact, immediately upon assuming the portfolio of labour in October 2007, the Labour Code was a matter that I had was placed high on my priority list.
At this juncture, may I take the opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the Social Partners who have agreed to participate in this discussion over the two days, as it is only through meaningful collaboration and dialogue that we will be able to achieve our goals.
Ladies and Gentlemen, globalization is continuing to impose new and complex economic forces that are reshaping the workplace and recasting the traditional roles and relationships of employers and workers.
The world economy and the international bureaucracies determining the rules of participation in globalization, are clearly bent on securing the operations of free market principles with its attendant risk and challenges. Clearly, we exist within a very complex environment, one where competition is at its highest and profit margins are relatively low.
The lower margins of profitability affect capital formation, Government revenue and employment. Clearly, one recognizes that the economic tripod, Government, Labour and Management are inextricably linked and that the goals and objectives of the social partners converge at some point. If one leg fails, the tripod no longer stands. In view of this realization, what then should the attitude of the social partners be?
By now, globalization should have taught us that we cannot continue to allow ourselves to focus on realizing narrow particular interests. Rather, we should be focusing on broad objectives, such as how employers and employees can collaborate to enhance the long term viability and success of businesses. It is becoming increasingly evident that unions and workers must work with employers to improve the economic performance of enterprises in ways that serve not only their interests, but also those of the enterprise and society as a whole.
In that regard, both business owners and staff must take each other’s interest into consideration if they are to make progress.
The private and public sectors must give far greater consideration to workers’ concerns such as benefits, job security and working conditions.
Workers in turn, must deal with matters such as training, sharing information and streamlining operations. All parties must be far more flexible than they have been in the past.
Ladies and Gentlemen, a Labour Code represents a particular framework for addressing workplace relations.
We need to appreciate that the social partners are coming from different perspectives and that the goals in each case may appear to be different. Nevertheless, as mature people, we must realize that balance must exist in all things if they are to operate correctly. In achieving a balance in the Labour Code, it is important that its provisions reflect respect and understanding for the basic needs of both the employee and the employer.
Without doubt, greater cooperation and a greater sense of common purpose can enhance global competitiveness, which is essential for businesses and staff to actively pursue joint strategies for advancing common interests.
This is particularly important since failure to work out common approaches mean that neither party will realize its goals or fulfill its functions in the long term. Let us use opportunities such as this one to beat a path towards employer and employee cooperation and collaboration.
The Labour Code, ladies and gentlemen, has been occupying the attention of the Ministry of Labour, Information and Broadcasting for some time. We will be grateful, if we arrive at mutual consensus at the end of this two-day consultation as this will facilitate a prompt move to the next stage of the process.
I thank you for being here and wish you a fruitful two days at this exercise.
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