By Eric Rose
During the signing ceremony for a Memorandum of Understanding on the Second-Generation Bahamas Decent Work Country Programme, on December 6, 2021, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis noted that, over the past 45 years, the International Labour Organization (ILO) had developed a “longstanding program of cooperation” with the Bahamian Social Partners and worked in close partnership with the Government of The Bahamas to address the decent work challenges faced by The Bahamas.
“During this period, the Bahamas has, along with other Caribbean States ratified the eight Core ILO Conventions and is extremely proud of the steps taken to promote and encourage the concept of Social Dialogue enshrined in ILO Convention 144 on Tripartite Consultation, that promotes the application of a founding principle of the ILO to bring together governments, employers and workers through tripartite social dialogue to develop, implement and promote international labour standards governing all aspects of the world of work,” Prime Minister Davis said at the ceremony held at Jones Communications Building on University Drive.
Among those present were Minister of Labour and Immigration the Hon. Keith Bell, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Mario Bowleg; Director of the ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean Dennis Zulu and other ILO representatives; the leaders of The Bahamas’ Social Partner Groupings; current and former Members of Parliament; Director of Labour Robert Farquharson and other Senior Government Officials; President of the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) Bishop Delton Fernander; trade union leaders; and other stakeholders.
Prime Minister Davis said that, as an active member of the ILO, The Bahamas had benefited significantly, over the four decades, from adopting various conventions and recommendations of the ILO and enshrining the same into Statute laws.
“Based on the four pillars of the Decent Work Agenda – employment creation, rights at work, social protection and social dialogue – the
relationship between the Bahamas and the ILO has been concentrated on addressing the country’s labour market vulnerabilities as well as [ensuring] that Decent Work is at the heart of national development in The Bahamas,” he said.
Prime Minister Davis also highlighted several noteworthy milestones that had been accomplished through the relationship. He noted that, in 2014, the ILO worked with the delegation on creating a National Tripartite Council Bill 2014 to establish the Body known as the National Tripartite Council (NTC) with its function as a tripartite forum for labour and industrial relations.
In 2015, Prime Minister Davis pointed out, the ILO’s Director General Guy Ryder was included in the tripartite delegation that presented before Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling, GCMG on March 2, 2015, for the signing into law of the National Tripartite Council Act, 2014. Also that year, he said, after extensive consultation with the ILO, the NTC made recommendation to the Government of The Bahamas for an increase of the Minimum Wage which was then last increased thirteen years prior in 2002.
“In 2016, the NTC collaborated with the ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean to gather information seeking comparative legislation and data on Redundancies, Agency Shop, Incorporation of Terms and Conditions in Collective Bargaining Agreements and the expansion of the jurisdiction of the Industrial Tribunal and recommended to the Government amendments to both the Industrial Relations Act 1970 and the Employment Act 2001,” Prime Minister Davis said.
He noted that, in 2017, based on consultation with the ILO and regional partners, the NTC submitted recommendation for the enactment of National Productivity Legislation and the establishment of a National Productivity Council.
“On 4th September 2019, in the aftermath of the hurricane, Ms. Claudia Coenjaerts, Director, ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean expressed solidarity with the people of The Bahamas and offered support to the Government of The Bahamas through the ILO’s Development and Investment Branch (DEVINVEST) with its expertise in labour intensive reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads and small infrastructure,” Prime Minister Davis said.
He added: “In 2019 The Bahamas has demonstrated its longstanding commitment to protection of children and adolescents in the context of ensuring Decent Work, as one of five (5) Caribbean countries that were among the original signatories to the ILO’s Regional Initiative Latin America and the Caribbean Free of Child Labour. The Bahamas’ pledge at the IV Global Conference on Child Labour (Argentina 2017), established its commitment to have a national CL policy in place by or before the next Global Conference in 2022.”
Prime Minister Davis said that, since coming to office, his Administration had made a commitment to provide good governance, established on the principles of Transparency, Integrity & Accountability devoted to ensuring that there is harmony in the Bahamian Labour Market by working with the Social Partners through a system of regular and effective communication.
“I am extremely pleased to advised that my government pursuant to the National Tripartism Council Act 2015 has finalized its National Policy on Industrial and Labour Relations,” he said. “This historic policy includes:
The adoption of the Bahamas Decent Work Country Program
2021 – 2026;
• The adoption of a National Child Labour Policy
• The Ratification of ILO Convention 159 regarding Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment for Disabled Persons;
• Establishment of a National Productivity Council
• Enactment of legislation to establish a Livable Wage and a
comprehensive review of the Minimum Wage Act and an increase in the National Minimum Wage
• Amendment of the law to cause the Industrial Tribunal to enforce its decisions.”
Prime Minister Davis said that, in preparation for the development of The Bahamas Second Generation Decent Work Country Program, the Ministry of Labour — in conjunction with the NTC, and the ILO Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean — focused on consulting. That consulting included the Social Partners, and other national and regional stakeholders to ensure the widest public consultation on the process to develop the Second Generation DWCP, he noted.
“As I execute this historic Memorandum of Understanding with the ILO today, it signifies my Government’s commitment social dialogue and our steadfast desire to work with our social partners in national development,” he said. “I am confident that over the next five years the ILO and the Bahamian Government will take extraordinary steps to maintain harmony in the industrial relations environment in the Bahamas and work with our Trade Union and Employers Representatives to recover from the challenges associated with hurricane Dorian and the COVID19 pandemic.”
“I again express my thanks and appreciation from the Director Zulu and the Team from the ILO’s Caribbean Office for their presence here today and look forward to implementing the various aspects of the Second Generation Bahamas Decent Work Program,” Prime Minister Davis said.
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