REMARKS BY MS. JACQUELINE JACK, PRESIDENT, CARIBBEAN CONGRESS OF LABOUR, AT THE CONVOCATION ON THE CARICOM SINGLE MARKET AND ECONOMY (CSME), 9-10 OCTOBER 2009, BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS
Posted in: Statements from CARICOM Meetings | 11 October 2009 | Release Ref #: NA | 919
Honourable David J. H. Thompson, Prime Minister of Barbados and Lead Head Minister with responsibility for CSME
His Excellency Edward Carrington, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community
President of the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
My Fellow Trade Union Colleagues
Representatives of the Media
I consider an honour in capacity as President of the Caribbean Congress of Labour to be to invited to make a few remarks at what is in my view, a very judicious and significant meeting on the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) which is in simple terms a single economic space, in which goods, services, capital and labour will be free to move to capitalise on existing opportunities .
Over the last few years, my colleagues and I who have represented CCL at various meetings of CARICOM, have always taken the opportunity to voice our concerns about the rather slow rate of progress of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.
Madame Chair, allow me to remind your good self, as well as participants at this Convocation on the Single Market and Economy, that it was some twenty (20) years ago at the Grand Anse Declaration that CSME was discussed and agreed upon.
While this Convocation is very timely, collectively we cannot be proud of the fact that twenty (20) years later, the progress of the key elements of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy have not advanced to a point at which we can be proud.
As can be appreciated, the Caribbean Labour Movement of which I have the honour to represent is far from pleased about the state of affairs of CARICOM in respect of Free Movement of Labour.
At this time, we are still waiting to see measures put in place to realize the following benefits:
to name just a few.
We in Labour have recognised that discussions for a Trade Agreement with Canada has begun and Labour has been isolated from these discussions. Let me also state that, we have been reliably informed that the issue of Decent Work has been excluded as an integral component from these negotiations. Be advised that the CCL has initiated an action plan to have this decision reversed. Madame Chair, in fact, some of these matters that I have mentioned above are presently very contentious, while on the other hand, there has been progress on Free Movement of Capital and Harmonisation of Company Laws.
At this juncture, it is imperative that I emphasise the fact and remind all present here this morning that Labour has played a most significant role in the development of this region. Labour has been in the vanguard of forging a United Caribbean long before the birth of Federation, CARIFTA, CARICOM and now Caribbean Single Market and Economy, and therefore, Labour will not now opt out of the struggle to achieve the somewhat elusive goal of Caribbean Unity.
However, it saddens me to see that instead of keeping Labour as a significant partner, Labour is being sidelined. The Caribbean Congress of Labour no longer has a place at the Conference of Heads of Government Annual Meetings, where views are exchanged between the Heads and Civil Society. It was just unceremoniously dropped from the Agenda – a signal in our view that Labour is no longer relevant or important.
What is disappointing is that this decision was taken at a time when the OAS, of which many Caribbean States are members, has now seen it fit to include – not exclude, Civil Society at its meetings.
It is our hope in the Caribbean Labour Movement that the decision by the Heads of Government will be revisited and a positive decision taken.
Before I close, I wish to refer to a historic Meeting of Civil Society, which was held approximately seven (7) years ago in Georgetown, Guyana entitled “Forward Together”. This Meeting produced the Liliendall Statement of Principles on ‘Forward Together’. Regrettably, since then, nothing more has been heard of or about ‘Forward Together’, not even meetings have been held.
Finally Madame Chair, on behalf of the Caribbean Congress of Labour, let me make a plea. Let us together use this Convocation as a vehicle, not only to examine our failures, but rather, let us together determine how we can move forward – for we are living in tough times, having to deal with a Global Financial Crisis, Climate Change and Global Warming, to name but a few challenges.
The former General Secretary of CCL, Brother George DePeana always reminded Labour Leaders, and I quote:
Let me wish this Convocation every success, not only for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children. We certainly owe it to them.
I thank you!