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Labour Commissioner Calls for Greater Collaboration Amongst Trade Unions

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Contact: John Emmanuel

Monday, November 11, 2002 - The inability on the part of trade unions on the island to foster greater togetherness has and will continue to impact negatively on the future of the trade union movement. That’s the view being expressed by St. Lucia’s Labour Commissioner Andrew James.

James told union officials and the general membership of the St. Lucia Civil Service Association who met last week as part of activities for CSA Week 2002, that unions on the island needed to rethink their organizational strategies in order to attract and ensure the bounding of their membership. According to him a major shortfall on the part of trade unions, was their inability to group themselves under a single umbrella. The best effort at realizing that goal he noted was the abandoned Industrial Solidarity Pact.

Trade unions, the Labour Commissioner said needed to engender greater trust amongst them. He pointed to closer collaboration as the only way forward for the movement in light of globalization and its inherent effects on the industrial relations environment. “The partnership concept is becoming recognized as a new paradigm for defining employer and worker relationship throughout much of the Caribbean. However, the adversarial model is still alive in St. Lucia. Mistrust is still a dominant feature in our industrial relations much to the disadvantage of the involved parties. This of course is a luxury that we can ill afford at this time,” said James.

He said a new mechanism of consultation, negotiation and participation must become a prerequisite for fostering togetherness between unions and employers. The goal of such an approach he noted would be to bring benefits to firms and their workers. Trade unions and employers he pointed out should seek to identify practical indicators of mistrust and develop strategies for correcting them.

The Labour Commissioner’s comments were preceded by statements from Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) Sir Dwight Venner, who spoke of the need for St. Lucia and other OECS countries to keep adjusting their thinking and take appropriate action in terms of the tough economic times facing sub-region Sir Dwight indicated that the OECS was now beginning to feel the traumatic effects of globalization in relation to bananas and the off-shore financial services sector, as the international economy and society in general, undergoes fundamental shifts in structure and governance.

The region he noted has to date not felt the full effects of trade liberalization and the impacts of lower tariffs on revenues and capacity of domestic and export industries to compete successfully on a world-wide scale. In light of those developments however, the ECCB Governor said the sub-region was not helpless and could successfully meet the challenges if strategic planning and re-positioning of regional economies continued. “This is serious dilemma for which we would have to find solutions with some urgency,” commented Venner.

According to him, “the solutions revolve around an economic and financial space of reasonable dimensions, a strategic engagement with the regional and international systems from this base and the highest level of productivity which is possible.” The OECS countries he pointed out, had anticipated these changes and challenges many years ago, if not in the specific terms of today’s circumstances, certainly with respect to their prospects in relationship to the region and the rest of the world. According to Sir Dwight, the 1981 Treaty of Basseterre provides a critical charter for the progress of the OECS sub-region, providing a vital starting point and platform for addressing the challenges currently being faced with the fundamental shifts in the international economy. He pointed to the trade union movement as a major player in rising to the challenge.

CSA Week 2002 activities which ended on the weekend with a calypso competition were observed under the theme Trade Unionism: Fostering Greater Togetherness.


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