NWU Serves New Minister a Tough Agenda
LABOUR Minister Stephenson King will have his hands filled dealing with ongoing industrial relations matters as he settles into his first full week as the Minister with responsibility for that portfolio.
The National Workers Union (NWU), one of the most powerful trade unions in the country, yesterday welcomed the decision to assign him to the Labour portfolio and said that it was prepared and willing to work closely with him. However as Minister, King would have to deal efficiently with a number of ongoing matters, the Union said.
The NWU is already calling on King to breathe new life in the Ministry of Labour, claiming that that Ministry has been in a comatose state for five years.
The NWU has, over the years, repeatedly expressed its displeasure with the Ministry citing its tardiness in dealing with matters that have to do with employer-employee relations.
The Trade Union Federation (TUF) has also publicly expressed its discontentment with the Ministry’s Labour Department, claiming that it has not been functioning efficiently especially when it comes to policing the labour laws.
Even the Ministry’s permanent secretary, Titus Preville at one time mounted pressure on the Ministry over its performance claiming that the public’s perception of the Labour Department was negative..
The NWU is also calling on King to settle industrial relations impasses at WASCO and St. Jude Hospital that are currently at mediation level.
These two institutions have been hotbeds of industrial action in recent times with management and employees locking horns ever so often.
Another area the NWU is calling on King to look into is in providing training opportunities and attachments for Department of Labour employees.
The Union has called for a cessation of the “auction sale” of work permits by the Ministry and re-establishment of “traditional interests” to advise on their issuance. It wants the machinery responsible for holding mediation and conciliation sessions modernized and recommends the appointment of a Deputy Labour Commissioner with the capacity and passion to execute the responsibilities of the position.
The NWU wants King to establish a Research and Education Unit with responsibilities for preparation and presentation of educational programmes to the public and to vigorously pursue and negotiate a bigger quota of the External Farm Labour Programme.
“The NWU feels very strongly that a new thrust is needed to drive the work of the Department and the opportunity is now available,” it noted in a media release yesterday.