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Minister of Labour Responds To Employers On Labour Code

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Contact: Prime Minister's Press Secretary

Friday, September 1, 2006 - Hon Velon John, Minister of Labour Relations, Public Service and Cooperatives, has moved to clarify statements attributed to Mr Henry Phillips, the Executive Secretary of the Saint Lucia Employers’ Federation.

According to the Minister, “For some time now, Mr. Henry Phillips, Executive Secretary of the Saint Lucia Employers’ Federation, as well as other private sector representatives, have been making reference to their concerns about the Labour Code, which they claim have not been responded to.

I find this claim extremely surprising. Contrary to the statements by the private sector representatives, the facts are as follows:

  1. Firstly, 245 and not 345 concerns were received from the Federation – and that despite the fact that most of these concerns had already been debated with other groups of employers and consensus had already been reached; and although many of these new queries objected to provisions which were already existing law and even provisions initiated by other groups of employers. But despite all this, the government agreed to reopen the discussion in good faith;

  2. Secondly, after these additional meetings and after being satisfied by the advice given by the ILO Consultant, the Employers’ Federation submitted a document (on file) in which they voluntarily discarded or withdrew 237 of the initial concerns expressed.

  3. Thirdly, only a few concerns remained and further consultations were held, at the end of which agreement was reached on over 90% of these.

  4. Fourthly, despite all the above, a further document containing over 700 points was then received from the Federation. However, the truth is that these 700 “points” largely regurgitated the comments in the earlier employers’ document that had already been dealt with and even reproduced the ILO consultant’s own guidelines on the Code.

  5. Fifthly, this last 700-point document relied inappropriately on Jamaican law, which Jamaica itself is seeking to reform.”

It is therefore quite alarming,” the minister added, “that employers are still speaking about their initial concerns as if they were still alive and had been ignored.

I cannot agree that a process which has included six years of consultation and dialogue by all of the social partners, as well as by other interests such as doctors, the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) and the Saint Lucia Bar Association, can be described as ‘rushed’”.

According to Minister John: “The Private Sector has been repeatedly told by the Prime Minister that the government’s objective is to achieve maximum consensus and that he would personally chair a final retreat to conclude the process. There is no need, therefore, to invent further conflict and tension.”

The minister concluded: “We appeal once more for good faith and good sense to prevail, so that this historic process can be brought to its logical and final conclusion, within the parameters of the time frame dictated by the maximum degree of consensus that was sought and which has obviously been achieved through the aforementioned deliberations between the social partners and stakeholders.”

Hon. Velon John

Minister of Labour Relations, Public Service and Cooperatives

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