Contribution to the 2020-2021 Budget Debate by Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes

Contribution

by

SENATOR THE HONOURABLE

DION A. FOULKES

Minister of Labour

 2020-2021 Budget Communication

The Senate

June 25, 2020

Madam President, Senate Colleagues:

These are unprecedented times that require well considered and calculated  measures. For out of the ashes of the global COVID-19 pandemic and consequent economic fallout, there emerges a NEW dawn…a NEW hope…and NEW opportunities for the marginalized, the disadvantaged, and the unemployed in our communities.

Madam President, I would dare say that this 2020-2021 Budget represents NEW hope and opportunities aimed at easing the financial burdens and woes of thousands of Bahamians who have been severely impacted by this global health and financial crisis.

Madam President

Over the past few months my Ministry has seriously committed itself to providing our valuable customers, the Bahamian people, with the highest level of personalized services.  

I wish to assure you that we will continue to devise ways to streamline our processes in an effort to increase efficiency, productivity, and overall customer satisfaction.

As a part of our mandate to provide quality services, we will continue to train our staff to ensure that they keep up with new and emerging technology.   Technologies that will make their job functions easier, and more sensitive to the needs of our customers, particularly as we grapple with the challenges of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing.

Madam President

The Ministry of Labour was not exempted from having its budget slashed like other Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.  If you note from the 2020-2021 budget estimates, our budgeted allocations have been reduced from $8.5 million to $6.8 million or a decrease of 20%.  A large percentage of the cuts in the allocations have been at the Ministry (Intl Travel, Supplies and Stationery, Honorarium), the Department of Labour, The Bureau of Standards and Quality and the National Training Agency.  

Despite this, however, we are determined to run a lean, mean, technology and customer driven machine that WILL meet our stakeholders and customers needs. We intend to do this with what we have been allocated and through enhanced revenue generating activities in these agencies.  And we will do it well.  

Madam President

I have full confidence that our senior management team, led by our Permanent Secretary (Acting) Mr. Reginald Saunders, and our dedicated staff at the Ministry of Labour can achieve these goals. We can only succeed if we have all hands on deck.

Madam President

As you are aware the Ministry of Labour is comprised of a dynamic group of governmental agencies and councils including:
 

  •     The Department of Labour
  •     The Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality
  •     The Consumer Protection Commission
  •     The Prices Commission
  •     The Consumer Affairs Division,
  •     The National Training Agency, and
  •     The National Tripartite Council.

I wish to take a few minutes to highlight some of the accomplishments of these entities and how we will have to change the way we do business and provide services in a post COVID-19 environment.

I will also take a few minutes to up-date you on the work of the National Tripartite Council and I will end my presentation by providing a way forward for the Bahamas in terms of how employers and employees can position themselves for the changes that are inevitable.

 

DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR

Madam President

I am happy to report that in this budget period, the Department of Labour has been enlarging and increasing its focus on providing increased quality services and more sustainable work for all Citizens and Residents of the country while at the same time fostering good Industrial Relations between Employees and Employers.   Promoting a high level of employment, an efficient and productive work force, a focus on human rights initiatives, and a Decent Work Agenda in accordance with International Standards, are all key ideals in developing a harmonious and engaging labour environment.  

Madam President

The Department of Labour’s Industrial Relations Unit is charged with the Settlement of all Trade Disputes.  Over the past twelve  months, the Unit has enjoyed an 88% success rate in resolving trade disputes that are filed with the Unit.

Additionally, Public Officers assigned to this unit also deal with persons, who do not have appointments and walk-ins, seeking advice and dispute resolution.   Of those, Madam President, 90% have been resolved without having individuals seeking the need to file a trade dispute.  This high rate speaks to the depth and experience of the officers assigned to the Unit and highlights the tremendous efforts of the staff of this Department.  This, Madam President, significantly contributes to a smooth and stable Industrial Relations environment in the country.

Madam President

I am pleased to inform you that the Department of Labour has supervised the elections of some 17 trade unions between January 2019 and January 2020. This is in keeping with our commitment to ensure industrial harmony in the work environment as well as to ensure that the rights of workers are protected in our country.

Madam President

The Pandemic has proven, particularly at the Department, that there are many services that can be provided electronically or through technology which, in most cases has proven rather effective and, in some cases, even more efficient than previously imagined.

In tandem with the Emergency Orders, staff members, where possible, have been allowed to work from home provided they would have had the tools and equipment with the necessary protocols in place to perform the task and ensure desired performance outcomes.                                                                                                                                                

THE BAHAMAS BUREAU OF STANDARDS & QUALITY

Madam President

The Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality (BBSQ) is mandated by virtue of The Standards Act (2006) to promote effective and efficient standardization of all goods and services (manufactured or imported) in The Bahamas.   Our goals include supporting sustainable development, protecting the health, safety and welfare of consumers and the environment, facilitating domestic and international trade, and furthering the development of international cooperation. BBSQ is also mandated by its Weights and Measures Act (2006) to regulate all measurement activities that have a bearing on trade within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

Madam President    

A number of goals have been achieved over the past year that are clearly in alignment with the Bureau’s three year Strategic Agenda for 2019-2021. I am happy to report that the Bureau is on target with achieving its key target indicators and objectives, and has yielded a number of praiseworthy achievements thus far.

During my Mid-Year Budget Contribution, I informed you about the Private-Public partnership between my Ministry /BBSQ and EAA Company Ltd in Japan.  This Pre-Export Verification of Conformity (PVoC) programme for ALL used vehicles being imported from Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom and the United Emirates has been extremely successful up until the closing of our borders due to Covid-19.  However, we anticipate the resumption of operations by the September 2020.

Madam President

To date, this PVoC programme has proven to play a significant role in the detection and prevention of sub-standard used vehicles being imported into our country.  It has also proven to be a significant source of income for the Bureau of Standards and Quality.  

Since the implementation of the programme on 1st of March 2018, the PVoC programme  detected a 12-15%  failure rate at the  first pre-shipment inspection point. Vehicles fail inspection for the following reasons:
 

  •     insufficient tire tread,
  •     cracked windscreen,
  •     lights not working,
  •     insufficient braking force,
  •     adverse exhaust emissions and other defects