Speaker [00:00:03] Thank you very much Madam Chair. I am honored. To be here and to have flown over the course of the last 18 hours to get here. And. I do so conscious that the body which I am about to address has done more than any other institution. In the course of the last century to change the lives of ordinary people across this globe. I'm equally conscious that the last hundred years has seen greater change for ordinary people than at any other time in the history of mankind. And if we accept those two statements then Madam Chair director general. Then we begin to understand the critical nature of the work which this organization continues to do on behalf of those without voice and those without presence. Indeed sir just 15 years after the establishment of this organization. Our region the Caribbean region saw the beginning of unrest that saw workers take their place to have their voices heard and their presence felt. Protests started in February 19 34 in what is now believes the torture rebellion traveled quickly to turn that into bagels and kids. Jamaica Guyana St. Lucia and in my own country on the 26 of July 1937 a day we recognize as a day of national significance we saw the workers rise up. To express their horror at the conditions under which they labored. With only their passion and faith in justice for all the workers drew strength from solidarity with their brothers and sisters across the region and from the heroes of their pasts. Ranging from our own country from buzzer to to sound of a tear in Haiti. This spontaneous worker's rebellion across the islands of the region without the benefit of technology and telecommunications led to the formation of my own political party which I lead today. The Barbados Labour Party which is the oldest political party in the English speaking Caribbean indeed three years later it led to the establishment of the Barbados Workers Union an institution with which this organisation is well familiar. For the tremendous contribution that it has made and continues to make from those who have come here I am conscious that I stand here in an institution that has known what it is to see the best of our business to have shared with us through the works of the great Right excellent of Frank walk national hero of Barbados who served on the ILO Governing Body from 1969 to 1991 when he retired and for Sir Roy to whom we pay tribute later this evening who served equally with distinction and dedication from 1991 to 2011 and who was the work of Vice Chairperson for almost a decade from 2002 to 2011. And of course currently serving. We have Senator Tony Moore who has been a member of the governing body since 2000 and 17 so that I come here not as a matter of choice. But as a matter of obligation for my country has within its DNA an intimate and fundamental respect for the rights of workers and for the expression of them wherever and however we may such that their life may improve at all times. It gives me immense pride when as one of my first acts as prime minister one year ago upon being elected I invited the then social partnership and in particular the leader of the Barbados Workers Union Senator Moore who by the way is the first woman. To ever be general secretary in an institution whose stability has seen over the 78 years only four general secretaries an indication of the extent to which it has been a rock within our own country for the protection of workers rights. But I met with her and other union leaders and members of the private sector and our own social partnership which the ROI did much to form at a time of our last economic challenge in the early 1990s. Nineteen ninety two in order to ensure that our country adopted a shared perspective on governance and a shared model. Recognizing that government alone capital alone or labor alone cannot move forward on a sustainable basis the things that we must do to improve the lives of our country and the development opportunities of our nation. Our social partnership I am happy to report now meets regularly again. Having gone through a period of lethargy and that social partnership was the first entity with which I chose to meet because I understand fully that if we are to move forward in difficult times or prosperous times that a commitment to sharing the burden fairly as we must share the bounty fairly must mark every aspect of our development model. Indeed on the very first morning in office we met and we set a national mission that was common to a soul. The saving of the value of our dollar recognizing that our failure to do so would impact on every sector and every class of person within our nation state. That struggle for social justice which is at the core of all that we do for the rights of workers to associate organize and withdraw their labor for recognition that labor.
Speaker [00:07:24] Has dignity and is not a commodity that poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere. That fairness and equality must be the bedrock upon which we raise.
Speaker [00:07:40] That there must be an elimination of child labor and workplace violence that there ought to be a tripartite approach to discourse and the solving of problems. These are the things that mirror much of what this organization has stood for and promoted over the course of the last century. We were not here at the ILO declaration of Philadelphia in 1944. I dare say most of us were not even born. But that history is our history and these causes are our causes. Deeply imbibed and proudly recalled. Our future can only be secured by remembering our pasts. Never before has humanity faced a test of the magnitude of climate change as we face today. And Madam Chair you reflected on my comments to the United Nations General Assembly last September where I spoke directly to those there and to those who could hear my voice that the world has made a park. That it is not prepared to see those who are most vulnerable among the global community of nations. It is unfortunate because it reminds us of a world that was not prepared to see the most vulnerable of human beings one hundred years ago namely the workers that we one hundred years later in spite of the development of this institution in spite of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in spite of all who have died and all that we have fought for that we should continue to believe that it is okay to view a group of nations as dispensable or worse still not to view them at all. Against the very threat. That is perhaps the greatest threat since mankind has and habitat. This earth. Is perhaps the greatest unfortunate aspect of our global affairs today. We speak. From event to event. We speak from institution to institution. And even though they say politics is the art of repetition it appears that neither politics nor morality is having any meaningful impact. On those whose actions and voices can make that significant difference to the claimant. Difficulties that we face today. I go further. Those who are most likely to suffer from climate change will be the most vulnerable. And the notion of climate refugees is not something that is alien to us within our own region. We have seen more than two thirds of the population of Montserrat leave because of a volcano in our own region two years ago. We have seen the whole island of Barbuda evacuated because of a hurricane in our own region. We have seen the country of Dominica lose two hundred and 26 percent of its GDP and significant dislocation of its population because of two hurricanes two years ago. But it isn't only climate change that bothers us and it isn't only. There are recognition that the world is only prepared to protect the most powerful who have been the ones who have caused the greatest contribution to the rate of degradation of our climate. But it is also the global insecurity. It is also the continued willingness to believe that it is okay to move capital. But it is not okay for people to move and hence mass migration of labour is unacceptable to a world whether for xenophobic racial or other reasons. It is okay for a world to accept that these combined issues along with the rapid pace at which technological change is taking place can all have implications on people without states or institutions intervening to counterbalance the implications that they are having for ordinary workers. And therefore. When this institution sought. To look at the whole question of the future of work. It did so I believe against the background that we do not live in a world that in any way will resemble the world of 30 40 years ago far less a century ago. And to that extent therefore it is absolutely critical for us to plan effectively to ensure that there are no unintended consequences to our populations in particular ordinary workers. As we go through this fast pace.
Speaker [00:13:11] Multi polar changing world.
Speaker [00:13:17] The pace at which it is changing means that the only certain thing is the principles to which we hold dearly.
Speaker [00:13:27] The environment will change. The geography because of climate will change. The power of those who have power will change but the principles that cause us first and foremost to respect the dignity of work to respect the decency of work to respect the principle that.
Speaker [00:13:51] Burdens must be shared fairly but equally bounties must also be shared fairly. Laws are the only constants that we can assure ourselves of 10 20 30 50 or 100 years from No. It is against this background. It is against this background that my government and the region to which we belong has held dearly to the principles that those things which have allowed us to evolve as modern nation states. From the 1930s when our workers rose up are as relevant today as they were in the 1930s they called for equality. They called for fairness. They called for equal opportunity. Have we completed the task. No. Are there still issues that face us. Yes. And. I have come here today to confront some of those issues. Cognizant that we do so at the very time that the world is prepared to jettison multilateralism and to jettison the voices of those of us who want to finish the journey and to complete the task. We are not over. And we have not completed the protection of women who continue in many instances across this world to face conditions of unequal pay for equal work and who regrettably have been the subject more often than not. Of violence and discrimination in the workplace. It is against that background that I am proud that my minister of labor has been appointed a rapporteur on that technical committee and I look forward to the work at the end of this week because these are the soft things that no longer occupy the news headlines but regrettably confront too many women and too many people on their daily work days as they seek to protect their families and themselves. Similarly we have not placed sufficient emphasis. On commitments on my own government is conscious that a previous government almost a decade ago in this very room made a commitment to sign on to the conventions to protect the rights of domestic workers. But yet having made that commitment has done. Did nothing. We have come to commit once again because we recognize that in our own case tens of thousands of our own citizens were raised were nurtured. We're born to domestic workers and irrespective of their circumstances of birth have risen to make significant contributions not only to our own country but indeed to regional and international affairs and that their parents their mothers in particular should be the subject of harassment or victimization simply as they seek to do decent work to help others is uncalled for and will not be accepted by my own government. And then of course there is the issue of minimum wages which your own report speaks to as a guarantee as to the minimum standard of living to which our citizens ought to be entitled. We live in a world where the inequity has increased and other than it parading itself. In academic theses or opinion or editorial pieces in newspapers we've seen little effort. To be able to close the gap an inequity with respect to the economic path of too many of our countries across the world. Countries speak glibly about GDP growth. As glibly as they speak about GDP.
Speaker [00:18:30] Growth and tightening are. A new from concessional ID.
Speaker [00:18:36] In today's world. But it is not GDP growth that determines equity. It is fair and equitable growth in our societies that determines whether our path is on a sustainable basis or not. And to that extent my dear friends we believe that we have a solemn duty to be able to upgrade the skills and to create the opportunities for access to both tools and capital for our workers at all times for them to be able to transition whether transitioning from student to worker from worker to parent from worker to retirement. And that in very many cases it is in the transitioning of workers to different states that we see an absence of protection afforded to them. My country was one of the first developing countries to offer unemployment benefit as part of the suite of national security national social security obligations. But in the early 1980s. We did so at a time when many other developed countries did not offer unemployment benefit to this this year. I will now add. The issue of paternity benefits because we recognize that even as we move to remove discrimination against women that we have a solemn duty to ensure that our young fathers in particular have the opportunity to bond with their children because at the core of sustainable development. At the core of sustainable development is strong families and strong families make strong communities strong communities make strong countries. Equally we recognize that we can no longer course on a culture of contentment and that for workers and for capital and for government there must be the mirror exercise that examination of self. Are we truly delivering what we have committed to deliver. To be faithful to our mandate and to our constituency. Our country has recognized that we have. Irresponsibility. To define excellence in every form. And if we can define excellence in each job from that of a car washer. To that of a doctor from that of a weight to that of a lawyer from that of a chemist to that of a domestic worker that if we can define excellence that if we can determine who can certified to excellence and who can teach to excellence. But above all else if we can then determine who can monitor the habit of excellence because excellence is merely a habit then we will improve that which we offer to each other and ensure that the level of productivity and by extension our competitiveness as a nation and as a region will significantly improve. We have become accustomed regrettably in standing on a culture of contentment in too many parts of this world without recognizing that that continuous examination and retraining is absolutely essential to progress in our own way. We call it the RiRi program. Retraining and empowering retooling and enfranchising those who think and franchising is about making people owners without the protection of social rights. I say to you that is not the case. Because we recognize that at every stage we have a duty to protect the transition and ultimate destination of all who we seek to enfranchise. But we are conscious that no amount of training no amount of.
Speaker [00:22:57] Development.
Speaker [00:22:59] No amount of retooling can make that ultimate difference in today's world without creating a platform for ownership for all. Are we sizzle conscious that technology threatens. The existence of many of our workers. Only if those workers are not in charge of the ownership of the technology.
Speaker [00:23:26] That technology becomes an inimical tool.
Speaker [00:23:31] Against those who cannot control the direction or the shape of the technology. But if we own the technology as workers and if we can shape the direction in which technology can be used both ethically and economically then it is unlikely to cause the dislocation or to bother those who are worried about it. As we confront automation artificial intelligence and all of the other things that will fundamentally alter the structure of work over the course of this century we believe for example in the simple example if a robot can do everything that I can do that is fantastic. So long as I own the robot. But if I don't own the robot then I am in trouble and it is against that background that a discussion as to ownership starts has to take place and it is not a discussion that has been taking place other than among a few who regrettably have not yet commanded the space of the national media to be able to make the case.
Speaker [00:24:49] We can't stop the pace of technology but we need to ensure that workers have a right in the ownership and shape of what technology can do and will do in our societies.
Speaker [00:25:09] We call therefore. Upon the director general upon this organization its member states its social partners to work with us on the new models of business and ownership.
Speaker [00:25:26] On the models that will put at all times the dignity of our citizens at the centre of our development model. There are many proximate causes of our challenges and many technical solutions. But if we are distracted by the noise or by the trees from the forests then we will suffer the consequences of being a pawn on a chessboard. I want to suggest to this organization that we have. To make our voices heard where it matters most and that is in the development trajectory of nations. And that is with respect to the repositioning of workers at the center of the development model.
Speaker [00:26:16] Our principles will not change our geography will our power relations will. Our capital will.
Speaker [00:26:25] But if we hold faithful to our principles and if we ensure and hold and faithful to our principles that we put people at the center of every sphere of power be it capital be it technology be it in the framing of ownership then I do believe that we will be able to evolve through this very turbulent period of world history with the protection of workers rights and the dignity of our people intact. Why. Because ownership matters. Why. Because the root of all must be fairness and equity. Why. Because our people matter. Why. Because our development threats must always be about providing opportunity allowing as many of our people to prosper and develop. The balance and equity that is so characterized so many of our countries in recent years to stand up for what matters rather than being afraid to be a voice in the wilderness if we in the Caribbean were afraid of being a voice in the wilderness we would not speak about climate change. We will not speak about mass migration. We would not speak about the global inequities of a distorted global trading system that requires of us participation. At the same level and in the same manner as large countries. Even though we have no power to distort global trade in goods or services. Sighs. Position and geography cannot matter in fighting for righteousness and the protection of workers.
Speaker [00:28:11] But I suspect sir that those who gathered one hundred years ago to form this organization felt the same way and recognize that what mattered was the commitment to principle and the protection of average human beings who were voiceless and faceless. For too many people. But who understood that commitment to cause.
Speaker [00:28:37] Without fear of consequences would one day lead to the kind of improvements that we have seen among the working classes of the entire world. We are not yet finish in the words of the Talmud. We are not expected to complete the task but neither are we at liberty to resile from it. I stand here today carrying the baton for another generation of barbarian leaders to commit to principles that more than any other institution help define what our country is about and what our mission stands for. And I thank you for the honor accorded to me and my government and my people for being able to share a few perspectives on this centenary in our part of the world and I suspect you know this a century is nothing to be trifled with. Even if we may not be seeing as many of them at the moment in the Cricket World Cup as we would like to see. But we know that once there is breath there is will. And we therefore will join with you on that mission to continue to benefit those people who have not yet gotten on the train.
Speaker [00:29:56] God bless the International Labour Organization.