Labour Minister Pledges Open Door Policy for Industrial Peace

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BCPOU president Robert Farquharson (left), TUC president Obie Ferguson (centre) and BPSU president John Pinder at Monday’s TriFor. (BIS photo/Derek Smith) 

By: Gladstone Thurston

NASSAU, Bahamas – Labour and Maritime Affairs Minister Dion Foulkes pledged “an open door policy” with trade unions and employer associations in order to maintain industrial harmony.

“While we may categorise ourselves as labour or management, in actuality we are united in the common goals of Bahamian progress and the maintenance and improvement of our quality of life,” Mr. Foulkes said.

Scores of delegates from trade unions, workers organizations, and employer associations gathered at the British Colonial Hilton Monday for a resumption of TriFor, where Minister Foulkes delivered the keynote address.

Under the theme, ‘The Importance of Social Dialogue in Achieving and Maintaining Industrial Harmony’, the TriFor approach is used as a platform for reducing or eliminating the need for spontaneous outbreak of industrial actions, Mr. Foulkes said.

Director of Labour Harcourt Brown heralded the “impressive…level of dialogue and the spirit with which discussions have taken place, pointing out that the social partners are united in their resolve to see (TriFor) develop into a mainstay of Bahamian industrial relations.

“The concept of reasoning together is what TriFor is all about. As social partners we will have differences. However, I am convinced that we are all concerned about what is the best for our country,” Mr. Brown said.

Minister Foulkes pointed out that this tripartite forum allows for the examination of issues relevant to the continued growth of The Bahamas.

“Here, differences between workers and employers can be discussed fully and resolved amicably,” said Mr. Foulkes. “To ensure that this process continues, I will maintain an open door policy with unions and employer associations.”

He said the government is committed to the strengthening of its labour relations, the institution of a more effective system for the settlement of disputes, the provision of incentives for private firms to offer profit-sharing arrangements to employees and the promotion of technical and vocational training.

Important and recently passed legislation, he noted, mandates that the government consult with trade unions and employer organisations before regulations are implemented.

“If The Bahamas is to remain competitive, it must have a cohesive workforce committed to nation-building while at the same time minimizing industrial unrest,” said Mr. Foulkes. “It is imperative that we unite in strong purpose to achieve and maintain industrial harmony.”

Dr. Ana Teresa Romero, director of the International Labour Organisation’s Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean was among delegation heads at the forum. A two-day national tripartite consultation to develop the Decent Work Country Programme for The Bahamas begins Tuesday at the College of The Bahamas.

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Labour and Maritime Affairs Minister Dion Foulkes (at the lectern) told of his open door policy at TriFor Monday. Pictured from right are Archdeacon Keith Cartwright, Dr Ana Teresa Romero, Director, ILO Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean, Permanent Secretary Thelma Beneby, Mabelene Bowleg of the Andros Labour Office, and Director of Labour Harcourt Brown. (BIS photo/Derek Smith)