PHILIPSBURG – Minister of VSA Emil Lee met with WICLU to discuss a number of issues related to the field of Labor, including Labor Day celebrations, representation on SZV, International Labor Conference, changes to the civil code, improved compliance and concerns with a couple of businesses that are encountering financial difficulties.
Based on the outcomes of the meeting, the Ministry of VSA and WICLU have agreed upon key areas within labor that will require collaboration or attention in 2017, beginning with the Labor Day celebrations. In the past the Department of Labor has been the lead organization in coordinating Labor Day, however, last year Minister Lee empowered WICLU to take on the role of coordinating the Labor Day celebrations in order for the event/activities to resonate with the working population.
In 2016, due to budget constraints, it was decided not to attend the International Labor Conference, however, WICLU has expressed interest in a delegation attending in 2017. It was agreed that while the Ministry would prefer to host an event locally with support from ILO Caribbean, the Ministry would see if budget was available to support a delegation in 2017.
In addition, one of the critical legislative changes that the Ministry is committed to finalizing is the changes to the civil code, addressing the abuse of the 6-month contract. The amendments, which have been fully supported by the labor tripartite has been submitted to Parliament.
However, due to elections and changes in government, it has not yet returned on the agenda of Parliament. Furthermore, two staff members from the Labor Department left to take up positions in different Minister’s Cabinets leaving the department short staffed. Minister Lee expects to be in Parliament in March 2017, to renew discussions with Parliament regarding proposed changes to the civil code and the consensus document on labor reform.
The union representatives also expressed interest in strengthening union representation on the board of SZV. Minister Lee commented, “Based on the impact that SZV has on the health and wellbeing of the groups that they represent, I could certainly understand their desire and will incorporate their desires in the selection of replacement board members for SZV.”
Final discussion point was the concerns about a few businesses that were experiencing financial difficulties and possible impact to the employees. Minister Lee assured the representatives that based on their concerns, the Department of Labor would check on the mentioned concerns.
In an invited comment Minister Lee stated, “I am very pleased with the positive and constructive relationship and dialogue that we have with the Unions. Over the past year, we have built a great relationship based on open communication, trust and respect.”