LABOUR Minister Stephen Mc Clashie hailed the role of TT's trade unions but urged they return to the National Tripartite Advisory Council (NTAC) in his Labour Day message, issued on Friday for the occasion which falls on Sunday but will be celebrated with a public holiday on Monday.
The statement was headlined, It is imperative that the Trade Unions return to the NTAC.
"As we join the nation in celebrating Labour Day 2022, I wish to recognise and commend the labour movement for its continued dedication towards championing the rights of workers across Trinidad and Tobago, while upholding the principles and tenets on which the movement was founded and built," he praised.
However he then said the nation could only progress towards decent work by "a collective effort comprised of labour, business and government representatives, the very basis of social dialogue and tripartism."
Mc Clashie urged entities to not operate in silos or avoid dialogue just because it might be hard to find a middle ground.
"Instead meaningful dialogue which requires the engagement of all stakeholders participating in frank and respectful conversations, essentially, must take place.
"I therefore urge the return of the labour representatives to the discussion table."
Mc Clashie said the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said social dialogue had pre-requisites to take place.
These were strong workers' and employers' organisations with the technical capacity and relevant information to participate in social dialogue, the political will and commitment by all parties to participate, respect for the fundamental rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining, and appropriate institutional support.
Saying the NTAC mirrors the ILO by providing the forum for members of a tripartite body to advance workers' interests.
"It is therefore imperative, that the trade unions return to the NTAC."
He thought all stakeholders have significant and vital contributions to make in offering a solution-oriented approach to treat with labour sector challenges
Mc Clashie said his ministry offers labour administration and formulates policy and legislation, the latter now under a comprehensive review.
"As part of this process, the ministry has engaged with the social partners, Government, labour and business and other relevant stakeholders to bring about change and modernisation of labour legislation in keeping with transformation that has been taking place within the labour sector."
He said this legislation included the Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies Act, Industrial Relations Act, Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, National Workplace Policy on Sexual Harassment, Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act (Amendment) Bill 2019, Employment Standards Bill (formerly Basic Terms and Conditions of Work Code), Foreign Labour Contracts Act, Trade Unions Act, Maternity Protection Act and Minimum Wages Act.
Mc Clashie said the Industrial Relations Advisory Committee (IRAC) - in its role of promoting decent work, industrial peace and opportunity for all - has recently consulted on the Maternity Protection Act and Minimum Wages Act. "The next step is to send these reports to the Industrial Relations Advisory Committee (IRAC) and the Minimum Wages Board for their respective reviews to prepare Policy positions."
He said the ministry was also working on legislation regarding sexual harassment Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) and employment standards.
The Ministry’s role involved formulating policy and public education on labour rights and responsibilities, plus training stakeholders on workplace rights and duties so as to reduce workplace breaches and promote industrial peace.
"The Conciliation Advisory and Advocacy Division provides ongoing workshops in mediation and training to stakeholders within the business, labour and government organizations in industrial relations matters including retrenchment and severance, contract employment, trade dispute, sexual harassment in the workplace among other key workplace matters.
"While the Ministry maintains a peaceful industrial landscape through conciliation, education and training, health and safety of workers remain a top priority. The recent tragic incidents in the workplace have greatly underscored the seriousness with which we must approach the management of safety and health to preserve life."
He said building safe workplaces involves unison and compliance to OSH regulations.
Mc Clashie said with safety and health recently made basic rights at work, ILO members like TT must commit to a safe and healthy working environment.
He again appealed to labour to return to the NTAC. "In order to uphold the principles of decent work, industrial peace and opportunity for all, we need to persevere in unison."