PRESS RELEASE – Thirty two representatives from 19 Employers’ Organizations from the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean participated in a regional Forum entitled “Facilitating Participation of CARIFORUM Civil Society in Regional Development and Integration Processes”. The Forum was held at the Accra Beach Resort in Barbados, from 22-24 June 2015.
The activity was part of the European Union (EU)-funded Project*, whereby the International Labour Organization (ILO) is the executing agency to strengthen the capacity of the Caribbean Employers’ Confederation (CEC) to play a greater role in regional policy making, and to ensure CEC can effectively lobby advocacy strategies on behalf of its members – Employers’ Organisations at national level.
At the opening the Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development for Barbados, Sen. Dr. the Hon. Esther Byer-Suckoo spoke about the economic realities of the Caribbean region and challenged participants to address the gaps necessary to meet EPA obligations in the context of Caribbean development, particularly during the period of the project’s support – 2015-2018.
Ambassador Mikael Barfod, Head, EU Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean spoke on the importance the EU attached to the fundamentals of social dialogue, labour standards and decent work and his belief that the strengthening of such pillars through the support of the project would benefit the entire Caribbean.
Ms. Anne Knowles, Senior Specialist, Employers’ Activities, ILO; Mr Wayne Chen, President, CEC; and Mr Ian Gooding-Edghill, President, Barbados Employers’ Confederation also spoke at the opening ceremony with each of them expressing appreciation for the opportunity to be able to focus on ensuring employers throughout the Caribbean had their voice heard at national and regional policy making forums.
Prior to the Forum a survey had been completed by each Employers’ Organisation to have them prioritise issues of key importance at national and enterprise levels. Presentations were then made by participants on topics including the following:
Review of regulatory barriers to develop an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises;
TVET institutions – matching skills training to employment needs;
Climate change and enterprise resilience;
Institutionalizing tripartism at both national and regional levels, to ensure a systemic approach to input from Employers’ Organizations on social and economic policies;
Productivity and competitiveness, particularly in small and medium enterprises; and
Legislative focus to support the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Social Chapter, which incorporates the core ILO Conventions.
Other topics discussed at the Forum included Migration and Free Movement of Labour, International Trends Affecting Employers and their Organizations and Social Dialogue Mechanisms. Findings from a recent study tour undertaken by CEC and CCL representatives to Brussels were presented on the subject of Regional Tripartite Good Practices and Strategies for National Input.
The President of CEC, Mr Wayne Chen summed up the meeting by saying “The mood of the forum was positive and optimistic. But more importantly, the firm commitment by the national organizations to doing the hard and sustained work augurs well for employers having a more influential voice in our region’s integration and development.”
* The Project funded by the European Union is entitled: “Challenges to CARIFORUM Labour, Private Sector and Employers to fulfil their Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Obligations: Caribbean Employers’ Confederation and the Caribbean Congress of Labour Component of the Support to Facilitate Participation of CAIFORUM Civil Society in Regional Development and Integration Process.”
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