“The Labour Department needs a shake-up and you have to help us to shake that department,” Labour Minister Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte disclosed at a May Day rally organised by the St. Lucia Trade Union Federation (TUF).
She told the gathering that the Labour Department is the agency that has to give the unions support in representing the interests of this country’s workers.
Regarding the Employment Unit in the Labour Department, Albert-Pototte observed that it was not enough for it to deal with Canadian farmworkers.
“We need a data base. We need to see the situation of the workers in this country. We need information on persons who are seeking employment, what skills they have, what areas we need to train them,” she explained.
According to the Minister, individuals seeking employment should be able visit the Labour Department for assistance in preparing themselves for the world of work.
She also noted that the Work Permit Unit allows non-nationals to work in Saint Lucia.
But Albert-Poyotte asserted that as Minister, she has to give the okay.
Nevertheless, she said she had seen several areas that raised red flags.
“There are some types of jobs that people ask for work permits, and I say, ‘Don’t we have people in Saint Lucia who can do that?’ How do we know? Because the employer is supposed to advertise the position, interview and select the best person for the job,” the Labour Minister stated.
While admitting that there may not be local expertise available for some technical jobs, Albert-Poyotte declared that there are some basic jobs that Saint Lucians can do.
“But the Labour Department has to help us screen and keep the employers on their toes, so that do not bring persons to work in Saint Lucia to do work that Saint Lucians are qualified and competent and capable of doing,” the Babonneau MP stated to applause from the audience.
She also called attention to occupational health and safety, observing that several workplaces have mold, air quality, and poor sanitation issues.
“We have to be on the ground to ensure that our workers are working in environments that are safe, that are conducive for them to produce,” the former SLTU President noted.
Headline photo: Department of Labour stock image