Local legislators received both praise and admonition from International Labour Organization (ILO) regional representative Paula Robinson after her weeklong mission in Antigua & Barbuda.
Robinson, a senior specialist for workers activities in the region, was here assisting the Antigua Workers Union (ABWU) and the Antigua & Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) to devise an occupational safety and health (OSH) policy.
The praise was because “Antigua and Barbuda is one of the few countries that have ratified both of the conventions required in terms of setting up the policy, programme, and system. There are other countries that have not ratified either,” the ILO specialist said.
Her displeasure, however, is with the level of attention given to the OSH here as the country has so far failed to move beyond ratification. She cited the lack of specialist occupational medical doctors both here and in the Caribbean as an example.
“A doctor who is trained in occupational health looks at illness differently and knows what to look for, or if somebody comes in with certain symptoms, can say well maybe it’s something that’s going on at work. Whereas, the regular practitioner might just say well you’re sick and try to find out how they can fix that sickness without thinking (that) the source is at work, so that even if I give you medication and you go back to work and you do it again, you’re (going to) keep being sick,” Robinson said.
She is hoping that the first draft of the newly formulated policy, which is already in the hands of the Trade Union Congress, will help move the policy from ratification to implementation.
Robinson has gained the support of several top level AWU and ABPSA members who have pledged to press for consideration of OSH clauses, inclusive of considerations for HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses, in all future collective bargaining.
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