By Stirling Strachan
The Hon. Keith Bell, Min. of Labour and Immigration noted in his contribution to the debate to thank the Governor General for delivering the speech from the Throne that the Governor-General highlighted the various health, social and fiscal policies of the government moving forward.
While addressing labour matters, the Governor General said that the government plans to “Re-establish harmonious tripartite relations with Labour, Employers and the Government, as well as “Ensure that all labour issues are addressed as a matter of priority.
“I am committed to working with all stakeholders,” the Minister said, “to ensure that we achieve these goals and to ensure that all workers are fairly treated whilst we increase our levels of productivity and efficiency.”
He expressed grave concern over the high unemployment rate in the countrywhich is estimated to be somewhere between 25 to 30 per cent, due in part to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Minister Bell said this level of unemployment is far too high and the Hon. Prime Minister is committed to introducing robust policies to expand our economy and create jobs. For its parthe Ministry of Labour and Immigration has already begun mobilizing itself to work with various employers to hold job fairs to fill vacancies with qualified Bahamian workers.
The Department of Labour is a critical Unit in the Ministry with the primary responsibility of ensuring there is industrial harmony in the labour market. There has been the appointment of a new Director, charged with improving the efficiency and productivity of the Department while at the same time restoring the level of communication and trust with Social Partners, particularly the representatives of Workers and Employers.
The Director of Labour is actively overseeing the implantation of new policies and programs to fulfil the goals of the government as it relates to Labour, he said. Some of these policies are:
- The production and submission of a Restructuring Plan for the Department which includes the reorganization of the Senior Management Team, the re-districting of duties’ geographical areas, the realignment of duties and responsibilities and the establishment of two new Units within the Department to adequately respond to the multiple challenges associated with living and working in a COVID-19 environment.
- Introduction of a policy that will facilitate ongoing and continuous dialogue with Workers’ Representatives as articulated in the Memorandum of Understanding executed between the government and the Joint Trade Union Movement.
- Development of a plan to establish regular dialogue with the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation and other distinguished Private Sector Partners as outlined in the International Labour Organization’s Convention 144 promoting social dialogue.
- In collaboration with the Department of Information Technology, digitize the system associated with the application and distribution of Labour certificates.
- Collaborate with international and regional partners to begin the process of the introduction of legislation, in consultation with the National Tripartite Council, to increase the National Minimum Wage, which was last increased in by the Christie-led PLP administration in 2015.
The Department of Labour in conjunction with other agencies of the government is committed to promoting and maintaining an atmosphere of industrial harmony in the Bahamian Labour Market and in collaboration with the Bahamian Trade Union Movement and Employers’ Associations to ensure that longstanding matters are addressed. By re-establishing harmonious tripartite relations between Labour, Employers, and the Government, the Ministry of Labour through the Department of Labour and the National Tripartite Council will ensure that all labour issues are addressed as a matter of priority and resolved in an amicable and timely manner.