[ARANGUEZ, 18 June 2024] — In the context of a challenging and dynamic global situation and the resulting impacts at home, ongoing transitions, including accelerated digital transformation and the integration of digital technologies into the world of work, is reshaping industries and altering the nature of work. In Trinidad and Tobago, it is apparent that these changes are increasingly manifesting in various sectors, offering both opportunities and challenges.

On the one hand, digital transformation holds promises of innovation, increased efficiency, the creation of new jobs, and new ways of working. In many ways, it paves the way for a more dynamic and competitive economy. However, the possibility of job displacements and widening an existing digital divide present challenges that we cannot ignore, as well as the imperative for robust and responsive cybersecurity systems.

As we continue to grapple with these rapid developments and ongoing transformations that ultimately impact on the world of work, maintaining a focus on the Decent Work agenda is now more crucial than ever. Traditional approaches and textbook strategies to doing business, as well as organising and managing work simply cannot suffice.

The promise and mandate of Decent Work is perhaps one of the noblest pursuits of our current age. In many ways, it is a multi-faceted and ever-evolving concept that requires continuous assessment and appropriate responses consistent with national economic and social realities. Decent Work channels the values of freedom and equity, built on a realization of the fundamental principles and rights at work, equality of access to decent employment and income, enhanced social protection coverage, and strong tripartism and social dialogue. Moreover, it requires the creation of employment opportunities, enabled through economic growth and an environment conducive for sustainable enterprises to grow, invest and hire, and which supports entrepreneurship and enterprise creation in the formal economy.

A critical component of thriving in the digital age is continuous skill development. The transformations that are happening in this digital age — now driven by artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution — are reshaping industries and job markets. This transformation will not lead to mass unemployment. Yes, there will be job disruption and job loss, but also job creation, new opportunities, and new roles requiring new or enhanced skill areas. In this regard, responsive and relevant education systems and training programs are essential to equip our workforce with the necessary skills to navigate and excel in a digital economy and promote individual resilience, as well as resilient enterprises and economies. Individual investment in skills development and continuous learning will be crucial as the Government and employers also prioritise investments in development opportunities to ensure that our workforce and organisations are prepared for the future.

Indeed, disruption, much like we are experiencing now, is not a new phenomenon. In every age of industrial transformation, there has been and will be disruption. However, our ability to successfully navigate this paradigm and position ourselves in this global landscape will continue to be elusive if we persist in a siloed approach that is not grounded in dialogue. Responsibility is a collective effort, and our indispensable responsibility is to reignite the spirit of tripartism, which is key to developing and promoting an ecosystem that supports Decent Work, sustainable enterprises, and which facilitates a balanced transition into the digital economy.

We understand that this is no easy task, particularly for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Persistent informality continues to represent a major barrier to sustainable development and Decent Work. In addition, an alarm has also been raised on climate change that we cannot ignore. Current global data about its impact on work is concerning, with at least 2.4 billion workers now estimated to be exposed annually to excessive heat while working. Sectors where work is primarily concentrated outdoors, such as agriculture, tourism, and construction, stand to be especially impacted. Within the Caribbean, the climate crisis is already at our front door and exposes us to multiple vulnerabilities, such as heat stress and respiratory health. However, we see social dialogue as an important bridge to arrive at the solutions to these challenges. Divided, we are weaker and stand to bear the bitter brunt of ongoing disruptions. However, if we can recommit to dialogue and return to the table, we stand an infinitely better chance at achieving the type of progress we all wish to see.

This Labour Day, as we look back on what we have accomplished, much reflection is also needed on where we need to go. The stagnation of social dialogue at the highest level is not ideal but there is, however, still time for salvation. Now more than ever, there is a pressing need for solutions grounded in dialogue and focused on resiliency, adaptability, and sustainability. Through collective action we can achieve a future that is bright and prosperous for all.

It is in this spirit that we wish the labour movement and citizens of Trinidad and Tobago a HAPPY LABOUR DAY!


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