Twenty-six delegates, representing eleven unions from eight English-speaking Caribbean countries, met in a series of regional activities during the week of 8-14 May in Kingston, Jamaica. The events were hosted by the IUF local affiliates, UAWU and BITU.
The meetings started with a regional seminar for women workers in bananas and sugar on 8-9 May, with delegates from ten of the eleven unions, and the participation of Geneva-based coordinator of the IUF Agricultural Workers Trade Group (AWTG), and the regional secretary of the IUF English-speaking Caribbean. Work in smaller groups focused on equality on the job, gender proofing of collective bargaining agreements, and the IUF’s work on Women Issues. The seminar also reviewed a policy document on the IUF Action Program for Equality, and gave comments based on their Caribbean experience. The seminar recommended the IUF to develop a regional education program on HIV/AIDS, to conduct studies on areas where the sugar and bananas sectors can expand and to help identifying alternative employment for women workers, and called the E/S Caribbean regional conference to establish a regional Women’s Committee.
The regional meetings on bananas and sugar from 10-12 May was the first time that the E/S Caribbean unions from both sectors held joint sessions, in addition to sector-related work. The regional bananas and sugar meetings held an opening session which was addressed by the Minister of Agriculture, a representative of the Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC), and the local Jamaica Producers Group, the most important group in the Jamaican banana sector. In addition, members of the Executive Committee of the two IUF-affiliated unions, BITU and UAWU, which organise in sugar and bananas, also attended and addressed the session. The impact of changes in the trade arrangements with the European Union in sugar and bananas was the main issue, and the participants had the opportunity to hear the opinion from groups, such as government and companies.
Seventeen union delegates participated in the sugar discussions that focused on the “action plans” which countries have submitted to the European Union as part of the “accompanying measures” to the sugar reforms. The reports made particularly emphasis on unions’ and workers’ participation in the elaboration of the said plans, especially in the case of Guyana and Jamaica. A second topic was the reviewing of the process of restructuring and the rebuilding of union membership, which has been negatively affected by it. Such are the cases of Trinidad, St Kitts and the dismissal of many factory workers in Belize (dismissal that was followed by the rehiring on contract basis of several of those same workers). In a plenary session with the banana union delegates, the participants worked on health and safety issues and, after listening to the report from the regional seminar of women workers, discussed gender perspectives, equality issues and gender proofing of CBAs.
At a plenary session there was also a presentation on the IUF regional work, which led to proposals for future work on bananas and sugar. In sugar, the meeting recommended focusing on an in-depth work on health and safety and support the union participation in the EU/ACP sugar action plans. These will be complemented with the recommendations from the women seminar to work on equality, gender and HIV/AIDS.
On 13 May, the delegates went on a field trip to Frome Sugar Estate and Factory, which gave them a first-hand experience of the difficult working conditions in a Jamaican state-owned sugar factory.
The recommendations of the regional meetings would be integrated in the future work on sugar and bananas (2007-2008), and will also be an input to the E/S Caribbean regional conference scheduled for September 2006. The meetings took place as part of the on-going regional work supported by the Swedish LO-TCO.
List of participants
Gillian Alleyne, Barbados, BWU
Rhonda Chassang, Barbados, BWU
Julio Gongora , Belize, BWU
James McFoy, Belize, CWU
Frederica Riley, Dominica, WAWU
Narda Alia Electra Mohamed, Guyana, GAWU
Satyawattie Kadaru , Guyana, GAWU
Seepaul Narine, Guyana, GAWU
Imtiaz Baccus, Guyana, NAACIE
Pauline Collins, Guyana, NAACIE
Deala Goffe-Williams, Jamaica, BITU
Harald Brown, Jamaica, BITU
Wycliffe Matthews, Jamaica, BITU
Judith Wedderburn, Jamaica, FES -Jamaica
Clifton Grant, Jamaica, UAWU
Conrod Bake, Jamaica, UAWU
Del Holgate, Jamaica, UAWU
Delaine Clarke-Smith, Jamaica, UAWU
Humphrey Boreland, Jamaica, UAWU
Muriel Johnson, Jamaica, UAWU
Georgina Henderson, St Kitts and Nevis, SKNTLU
Steve Morris, St Kitts and Nevis, SKNTLU
Louise Glasgow, St Vincent & the Grenadines, CTAWU
Rudranath Indarsingh, Trinidad & Tobago, ATSGWTU
Jorge Chullén, IUF
Sue Longley, IUF
LeVere Richards, IUF
Documents from the meetings:
Report from IUF E/S Caribbean Regional Seminar for Women Workers in the Banana and Sugar Sectors, Kingston, May 8-9, 2006.
Resolutions from the Sugar and Bananas Meetings, Kingston, May 10-12, 2006.
Report on the Guyanese sugar industry by Seepaul Narine, General Secretary, GAWU-Guyana.
Unions’ Position on the Future of the Jamaica Sugar Industry by Clifton Grant, 1st Vice-president UAWU-Jamaica.