The Ministry of Labour would raise the bar by taking a leaf from its counterpart in T&T

Dear Editor,

The simplistic caption ‘The government should develop a plan to recruit skills from overseas,’ certainly misrepresents the thrust of Mr Mohamed Akeel’s very perceptive letter to SN of July 10, in which he attempts to portray, convincingly to some, the lack of a comprehensive national human resource development strategy.

Those who have not, should return to pages 6 and 7 of SN, and reflect deeply on the accuracy of the vacuum of skills and competencies obtaining amongst the very institutions and companies who describe themselves as ‘stakeholders.’

More critical, however, is his correct allusion to the relative inactivity of the central player in this depreciating labour environment, ie the Ministry of Labour.

Mr Akeel is right to observe, for example, the absence of creativity and consequent initiative to reconstruct the authority and capacity of the Board of Industrial Training (BIT), so that it can rise above the level of cosmetology to the more substantive role of generating the sustainable skills and competencies so much needed by our productive sectors, which are being increasingly challenged by foreign competition.

In this connection the Ministry of Labour (BIT) would raise the bar, by taking a leaf from the book of its counterpart Ministry of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development in Trinidad & Tobago (MOLSMED) whose Mission Statement reads as follows:

“To facilitate an enabling environment that supports employment creation, sustainable enterprise development and employee well-being in a safe, peaceful and productive work environment.”

Whatever the text the important message here is that this government institution has a declared mission, comparable to that of any private sector organisation. It is in this context that one must appreciate Mr Akeel’s appeal. What is our mission?

In a recent publication by MOLSMED the front page of which was headlined ‘2014 and Beyond… there can be no Development without Labour and No Labour Without Development’ (read ‘skills’ into ‘Labour’), one would not help but feel the dynamism emanating from the organisation, and which was further reflected in the following statement of the Minister of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development:

“Labour remains the bedrock of development. From time immemorial, work has been at the core of civilization, giving meaning to life and serving as the platform on which future generations are built. We at the Ministry of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development (MOLSMED) are concerned about ensuring that opportunities for work exist and that the quality of work meets international standards. Our efforts over the past year are in keeping with the Government’s commitment to people-centred development and support our philosophy that a more educated, better-equipped, productive and empowered labour force serves as the basis for cohesive communities, which in turn augurs well for social and economic sustainability in Trinidad and Tobago.

“We are focused on strengthening the industrial relations framework and enhancing policy coherence so that full employment and decent work are mainstreamed into all of our programmes and we continue to advocate for such coherence at the national, regional and international levels. To this end, we have continued our drive to modernise our labour laws so that no worker is left behind. Efforts at developing sustainable Micro and Small Enterprises and Co-operatives, strengthening the Labour Inspection System, enhancing awareness of rights and responsibilities in the workplace and combating discrimination in the workplace continue to support our thrust towards decent work for all.”

Hopefully this (prolonged) statement will serve as a pacesetting set of objectives for our own ministry and its support agencies (including training institutions), as well as inspire private sector organisations to collaborate more actively with the former.

Yours faithfully,
E B John

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