CARICOM Heads of Government have agreed upon a free labour movement among members states in relation to persons in the agricultural, domestic, and security sectors.
This was announced by Chair of CARICOM and President of Suriname Chadrikapersaud Santokhi on Tuesday during the closing press conference of the 43rd Regular Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government held in Paramaribo, Suriname. The Surinamese President explained, “We had agreed in the past, the free movement of the skilled nationals to give them the opportunity to work in the memberstates of the Caribbean nations, and now we have approved, also laborers which are not really the skilled labourers but labourers we need in our countries, in our sister nations and that we have removed all the barriers for them, agriculture and also security and domestic labourers.” President Santokhi noted that this issue was discussed for many years and this conference was about taking action to resolve this issue. "All the people who are looking for opportunities in sister nations, to find an opportunity as labourer in the security, in domestic and the agriculture, well now we have removed all the barriers, they can have free movement and they can find labour in our sister nations," he said. Secretary General of CARICOM Dr. Carla Barnett further expounded on the issue and said that the decision of the categories of labour were agreed upon by all the memberstates. These categories and definitions she said, are in keeping with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards. "What needs to be done now, because when we make the decision at the level of CARICOM, at the national level, the laws may need to be amended for most of the countries there really isn't need to amend the laws, it really is one or two that need to do that, and we will begin that process of working with the countries to make sure that those definitions that we agreed are in fact incorporated in their local laws," the SG said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves said while some of the CARICOM nations have to amend their local laws, other alternatives can be put in place for free labour movement. "Right now if any country wants in CARICOM to get agriculture workers for instance from another country, they can do so by agreement in the same way as we send agricultural workers to the United States, to Canada, we now do it from St Vincent's to the United Kingdom and so forth," the St Vincent and Grenadines Prime Minister posited. In addition, the CARICOM Heads of Government have agreed to remove all non-tarriff barriers on agricultural goods specifically in an effort to reduce the region's food import bill by 25% by 2025.
“In that regard, we mandated the council for trade and economic development to conclude by the end of this month, the programmes aimed at removal of all non-tariff barriers to enter our regional trade particularly agriculture goods,” the Surinamese President said at the Press Conference.