Sex workers, members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community and people with disabilities have been given a place at the table of the Social Partnership in a new body alongside faith-based and a raft of non-governmental organisations.
With the decision, the Labour Party Government has moved to keep a campaign promise to introduce a “Social Justice Committee” to broaden the membership of the tripartite Social Partnership to include a wider range of interest groups.
Introducing the committee on Wednesday, Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations Colin Jordan said the committee was in line with the principles of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Jordan, who is the social justice committee’s chairman, said its main objective was to consider and make recommendations to Government, directly through the Social Partnership and Cabinet, on social justice issues.
The committee’s remit includes poverty alleviation; the role of the family in fostering cultural and social norms and values; discrimination; access to education; integration of people with disabilities; access to employment; safety and security and the environment.
“It is not intended for this committee to be a talk shop,” said Jordan, who added that the time had long come for civil and non-governmental organizations to be involved in discussions with Government on issues affecting residents.
The committee is made up of 23 individuals, 19 of whom are appointed by the Labour Minister. Each member is to serve for a period of two years.
The deputy chair of the committee is the Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Cynthia Forde.
Other representatives on the committee come from trade unions, the Rastafarian community, women and men organizations, the media, youth development organisations, the credit union movement, parent teachers associations, social workers, the private sector and the Family Planning Association.
The committee will meet once per month and will report to the Social Partnership and Cabinet quarterly and also annually within three months of Government’s fiscal year, which ends on March 31.
Jordan said: “A social justice committee, from its name, has to do with ensuring that people across the country can function…. So feel free to share your views as strongly as possible always being respectful to the rest of us.
“What we want to do is to speak from our perspectives as representing organizations. We know what is happening in our organisations, we know what is happening on the ground. Sometimes though, we are going to need to have some research to drive that discussion and decision making.”
He pledged to call on the University of the West Indies and other institutions to provide research support.
The representatives of the various groups told the convening of the Social Justice Committee they welcomed the opportunity, expressing the hope that their members’ concerns would be adequately addressed through the new framework.