[ARANGUEZ, 19 June 2023] We are witnessing an era of unprecedented change across the global landscape. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to unfold, technology has now become integrated into every facet of our daily lives. The growth of automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, together with new systems of work, are some of the ongoing disruptors in the world of work, with the potential to create new jobs, even as we transition away from others, and also changing how work is structured and delivered. Indeed, the paradigms of the past are undergoing a radical shift and it is an opportune juncture to consider…What is our next step? Where do we go from here?
Simultaneously, while these rapid changes are occurring, we are also grappling with pressing challenges requiring urgent and collective action. Skills gaps continue to persist, compounded by factors such as brain drain, resulting in a mismatch between the supply and demand side of labour. The fact is, education and training are essential for decent work, improving the quality of one’s life and for enhancing individual and business prospects, but the scale, pace and scope of change today means the system of education and training are more challenged than ever to adapt to changing demands of the current and future workplace, where, ironically, one of the most valuable skill will be the ability to readily adapt to change.
In addition to this, we are seeing an opportunity to improve our business resilience ecosystem through a more targeted and coordinated approach at the organisational and national levels. We learned a hard lesson in 2020 as many organisations struggled with the scale and magnitude of what occurred. In a recently concluded study, conducted in joint partnership with the International Labour Organisation, the ECA found that the residual impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are still being felt even as businesses continue to face a variety of risks and challenges with essential infrastructure, flooding and extreme precipitation events and a growing concern surrounding ransomware and other cyberattacks, among others. The survey also found that corruption – or the perception of corruption, and a growing crime problem were also significant areas of concern for businesses, with very real implications for investments and business growth. We do not have the luxury of time and if swift action is not taken, we risk undoing decades of progress.
Turning directly to the Industrial Relations landscape, we must acknowledge the significant progress we have made over the years as a relatively young nation. However, while there have been attempts at addressing legislative and policy gaps by social partners in recent times, implementation of tripartite agreements continue to be delayed on the one hand, and on the other, what we believe to be the missing piece, which is arriving at a renewed commitment to meaningfully secure a shared common understanding of what must drive the tripartite conversation as we collectively seek to achieve a better future for all. The world of work is shifting in a direction that is dynamic, fluid and unprecedented. If we are to keep abreast with these changes, it is urgent that all social partners return to the platform of tripartite dialogue.
In all of this, the message of HOPE and ACTION needs to guide the way forward. It cannot be over emphasized that now is the time to engage in social dialogue, at all levels, rather than operating in our respective silos. Instead, we need to lend support and to foster a sense of duty amongst each and every one of us, not only for ourselves but for the future generations to come. Stability and sustainability will not be handed to us, rather it is up to us to collectively work towards a future of which we can be proud.
On this Labour Day, we celebrate the strength of our people and the renewal of our spirit to be tenacious and resilient in the face of all obstacles. We have demonstrated this unique ability time and again, and we cannot give up now. We wish the Labour Movement and citizens of Trinidad and Tobago a HAPPY LABOUR DAY!