BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, October 31, 2023 (MMS-SKN) -- A Ministry of Employment and Labour official has said that the Ministry and the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union share a symbiotic relationship as it relates to seeking of justice for the workers, and is encouraging the Union to step up its fight and strategy so as to reach out to more workers.
“Thinking about the work of the Union, what it does, and what it should stand for, the Union should be multi-stakeholder,” advised Mr Jeneve Mills Sr., Labour Officer with the Ministry of Employment and Labour. “All members of society should be considered, regardless of the social class, religion, colour, ethnicity, or political persuasion. The Ministry stands here in peace and in solidarity, and with a pure heart, with the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union.”
The Labour Officer made the remarks on Sunday October 29 when he addressed the 84th Annual Conference of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union, which was held at the SWMC Conference Room in Taylor’s Range, Basseterre. It was held under the theme ‘Protecting the Common Interests of Workers’.
Mr Mills Sr. informed that while change is constant, the world of work is static, and so should be the operations of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union. He advised that the Ministry of Employment and Labour falls under the ambit of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which was established in October 1919 on the grounds of social justice, welfare, and wellbeing
“I just want to stress on the role of the Union in all of these, because the President of the Union (Mr Sydney Bridgewater) is correct,” noted Mr Mills Sr. “If individuals are not unionised, the next place they reach is at the Ministry of Employment and Labour, and no, we are not saying that we do not want to be fighting for, and on behalf of the workers.”
The official said that they are advocating that they would prefer to change the strategy, the way in which they function as a Ministry of Employment and Labour, adding that they would appreciate if the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union could also change their fight and strategy and instead of waiting for members to come, they go to them.
“And so by the next time we are here next year (for the 2024 Conference) on a Sunday, then we shouldn’t be here - here should be too small,” said the Labour Officer. “It means that the union would have done its legwork and people would understand the importance of the Union.”
Present at the 2023 Conference was Leader of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, and Prime Minister of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Hon Dr Terrence Drew, who also gave remarks. Guest Speaker was past General Secretary of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), Mr Asokore Beckles.
Invited guests included Resident Ambassador of the Republic of China on Taiwan His Excellency Michael Lin; Resident Ambassador of Cuba, His Excellency David Rivero Pérez; Head of the Civil Service, Ms Thelma Phillip; and Deputy National Leader of the Peoples Labour Party (PLP), Mr Craig Tuckett.
“So, what does a Union do?” Mr Jeneve Mills Sr. posed. “A union fights for the freedom of association of all members of society. I am encouraging us to move away from the way we operate and think about all members of society, and it ties squarely into the theme for today, ‘Protecting the Common Interests of all Workers’ - not some, but all.”
He stated that it is the same thing with the Ministry which has been standing vanguard of the laws that are there to protect, not some, but all the workers. He praised the Union which has been fighting for the elimination of any form of discrimination and for standing in solidarity with the Ministry of Employment and Labour, and the Chamber in the fight of eradicating forced labour, and child labour among other core values over the past 84 years.
“The Ministry of Employment and Labour, and the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union share a symbiotic relationship - we are intertwined,” said the Ministry of Employment and Labour official. “We are here basically for the same thing. We just, in some instances stand on a different ground, a different ground in the sense the Union fights for the workforce, and the Ministry we are here to protect the laws.”
He pointed out that those laws are there at the end of the day to safeguard the interests and the rights of those who are working. In relation to the workforce, he requested the Union to take into consideration the fact that there are almost 12,000 people who are registered with the Social Security within the formal sector, and almost 10,000 who are not registered with Social Security and are part of the informal sector.
Mr Mills Sr. noted in his conclusion: “This is the entire workforce we are speaking about, and so yes, we have some work to do at the Ministry and we stand in solidarity with the Union as we continue to go forward hand in hand to eliminate some of the serious urges that are affecting the decent work agenda or the workforce within St. Kitts and Nevis.”
Resident Ambassador of the Republic of China on Taiwan, His Excellency Michael Lin, who brought greetings from the government and the people of his country, noted that while he has been in the country for six years, it was his third attendance of the Conference, but the second attendance as the Resident Ambassador.
He expressed solidarity and commitment to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis stating that Taiwan will forever be a partner as the Caribbean country moves ahead with its sustainable development agenda to make it a sustainable island state.
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