Media Center

Press Release


  September 14, 2007

Labor ministers from the 34 member nations of the Organizations of American States (OAS) wrapped up their 15th conference in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday, with a resolve “to do at least one new, different thing over the next two years to change and improve the conditions of work in our countries.”

The Fifteenth Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor (IACML) emerged with a Declaration of Port-of-Spain, along with a 16-point Plan of Action focused on the theme “Making Decent Work Central to Social and Economic Development.” In the Plan of Action the ministers identified, among other priorities: decent work as an instrument for development and democracy in the context of globalization; strengthening the capacities of ministries of labor to respond to the challenges of promoting decent work in the context of globalization; and action to implement the Plan of Action, related to the Inter-American Network for Labor Administration (RIAL).

Acknowledging full and productive employment as vital to social and economic development, the ministers propose, in the Declaration, to make them “the main objectives in the planning and formulation of social and economic policies and, at the national level, to integrate government policies on labor, employment and income with economic, social, educational, financial, trade and investment policies.”

Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Labor and Small and Micro Enterprise Development Danny Montano, along with OAS Executive Secretary for Integral Development, Ambassador Alfonso Quiñónez, gave closing remarks after the Declaration and Plan of Action were adopted, and after a formal vote of thanks to the government and people of Trinidad and Tobago.

As host and chairman, the Trinidad and Tobago labor minister declared to the media later that the biannual meeting was a “very successful conference.” Montano emphasized how the ministers all agreed that despite the disparity in the sizes of the countries, they had common issues and problems, adding that the meeting broke new ground and set new standards for the rest of the world to follow. “We spoke almost as if we were a brotherhood, as if we understood each other’s problems.”

Montano told the press conference that the labor ministers’ meeting underscored the new trend towards a kind of developmental platform much more engaged with setting a social agenda—social platforms and standards for workers, and for business to use in treatment of workers, moving away from the concept of dispute resolution.

Ambassador Quiñónez spoke for the OAS, reaffirming to the media that, “We are committed at the OAS to continue supporting this very important topic on the agenda of the hemisphere.” In a separate overview, he also reiterated the argument put forward by Secretary General José Miguel Insulza to the labor ministers’ conference that good laws are in place in the member countries but that the main challenge lies with implementation. A major focus should therefore be on strengthening the labor ministries, which was one of the topics of deliberations at the IACML. Emphasizing the importance of the exchange of experiences, he noted that certain experiences have really paid off for some countries and, therefore, “if they are willing to share those experiences it is a very cost-effective way of producing results.”

Quiñónez explained that the labor ministers conference is “part of a larger scheme—the Summit of the Americas process.” He added that the results of this conference are also important for Trinidad and Tobago as the host of the next Summit of the Americas—scheduled for 2009—and will have an impact on the Summit of the Americas process.

Jean Maninat, Regional Director of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, outlined the history of the decent work agenda launched by the ILO in 1999. On the social dialogue emphasis of the 15th IACML, he said social dialogue is a basic feature of democracy, explaining further that social dialogue calls for providing opportunity for trade unions, employers and organizations as well as governments “to have a voice and to discuss.”

Director of the OAS Department of Social Development and Employment (DSDE), Francisco Pilotti, also spoke at the press conference.

During their three-day conference, the labor ministers discussed five main topics: decent work challenges in the Hemisphere; strengthening the capacities of ministries of labor; gender mainstreaming; creation of employment with emphasis on youth; and social dialogue. They also elected Argentina as Chair Pro Tempore of the Sixteenth Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor.

Reference: E-220/07