Montserrat’s labour laws need "more teeth," says Minister Kirnon

Minister of Communications & Labor Hon. Charles Kirnon

BRADES, Montserrat – Minister of Communications & Labor Hon. Charles Kirnon said Wednesday that Montserrat’s labour laws need more teeth in order to enforce how employers are operating and to protect the rights of workers.

The minister was speaking during a Decent Work Agenda workshop sponsored by the International Labour Organisation on Wednesday. “Trade unions also need to be strengthened and we must increase the number of people participating in this process as more voices are needed to improve Montserrat’s work environment.

Union leader Hilroy Bramble echoes the minister’s statement saying laws needed to become more inclusive to consider workers who are being taken advantage of.

Led by Giovanni Di Cola, Ph.D., the Deputy Director of the ILO Subregional Office for the Caribbean, participants at the workshop discussed the four priority areas in Montserrat’s Decent Work Country Programme.

Priority one is to review and update labour legislation to bring it in line with the CARICOM Model and International Labour Standards. Di Cola said “labour issues are becoming more and more relevant on the international agenda and the Decent Work Agenda has now been accepted globally. Montserrat must be equipped to deal with them.”

The second is to strengthen the Labor Market Information System through training and the eventual implementation of the LMIS in Montserrat. The facilitator said a pilot project was conducted in St. Vincent & the Grenadines and eventually will be rolled out across the region but with adaptations for each island.

ILO Dep Director Giovanni DiCalo speaking at the Decent Work Agenda Workshop

Much time was spent on priority number three, which is the promotion of inclusive workplace policies on HIV/AIDS, through awareness raising and work place programmes. Di Calo believes that Montserrat can become a model for the rest of the region as it relates to how HIV/AIDS is handled in legislation, by employers and workers.

The ILO recently submitted recommendations for Montserrat’s national policy on HIV/AIDS. Di Cola said a lot more “stigma is connected with the disease much more than obesity which is more prevalent in the region. Discrimination is not allowed and that is why the ILO’s Recommendation concerning HIV and AIDS and the World of Work, 2010 (No. 200) is so important. The minute you check someone for HIV/AIDS you have to test everyone else as well and for all other diseases, then treat them the same.”

The ILO official said much of regional legislation has discriminatory statements when it comes to HIV/AIDS. Reverend Joan del Sol Meade, Chairperson of the Montserrat’s Multi-Sectoral Team on HIV/AIDS added that the island’s existing legislations are discriminatory and need to be reviewed so the rights of workers can be enforced.

The fourth priority was to strengthen the social dialogue among Government, employers, and workers on national and regional economic issues. Di Cola recommended that the Government can choose to develop information campaigns to help workers become more knowledgeable about their rights and the issues taking place locally and regionally that have direct impact to their lives.