RESPONDING: Minister of Labour Errol Mc Leod speaks during the post-Cabinet press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in St Clair yesterday. —Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

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Unemployment system needs to be overhauled

Labour Minister:

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

The 5.1 per cent unemployment rate in the country does not represent the reality of the situation, says Labour Minister Errol Mc Leod.

He was responding to questions at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair yesterday.

He said the system by which the unemployment rate was determined needed to be overhauled.

"I think it is safe to say that the system that is now employed...doesn't really represent the truth of the situation. That needs to be overhauled, there are many people who have become disgusted, they have become fed-up and they stop looking for work. They are not considered in the number but they are unemployed and they have to eat," said Mc Leod.

Economists like Indera Sagewan-Alli continue to dispute the jobless figure in the country, suggesting that temporary work programmes distorted the true unemployment rate in the country.

Mc Leod also announced that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has been mandated by Cabinet to draft legislation for improved compensation for employees who are injured on the job.

An international labour expert was hired to conduct consultations with various stakeholders and a draft policy was produced, he said.

Cabinet approved that the draft policy be sent to the Attorney General to establish new legislation to govern employment injury benefits to employees.

Mc Leod noted that in November 1960 the Workmen's Compensation Act was enacted and this Act was reviewed as part of the labour legislation reform project.

He said while this legislation brought "reasonable" benefits to employees, economic changes over time had devalued the impact and relevance of the existing Act.

Mc Leod said the new draft policy proposes:

• The new legal framework for employee injury benefit ought to provide employment injury benefits to all people in an employment relationship with an employer and all people in a state of dependency of a deceased employee.

• Cash benefits and medical benefits are to be improved and new legislation should provide for periodic review of cash benefits to take into account cost of living increases —Such benefits be in harmony with the benefits from employers' insurance payable under the National Insurance Act.

• The Industrial Court established by virtue of the Industrial Relations Act Chapter 88:01 be answered to adjudicate any claims arising thereunder the period within which an action for employment injury benefits can be initiated being extended from one year to four years from the date of the accident

• The list of occupational diseases for which employment injury benefits can be claimed be extended in alignment with those prescribed under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Speaking about the industrial relations climate in 2012, Mc Leod said it was challenging but productive.

At the end of 2012, some 45 wage and salary negotiations were completed, he said.

During the period 2010 to December 31, 2012 there were 132 collective agreements settled mainly through the bilateral process.

Mc Leod said there were "some noises" but that was from the minority of cases.

He expressed confidence that there will be a peaceful industrial relations climate this year.

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