Director of Labour and Employment Office Patricia Tuara Demmke says stakeholders also discussed ways of finding the solutions to those problems in order to ensure a vibrant workforce in the Cook Islands.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO)-funded workshop, which was opened by the Minister for Internal Affairs Albert Nicholas, had about 20 participants from various sectors.
They included representatives of the tripartite members of government agencies, the Chamber of Commerce, the Cook Islands Workers Association, the National Council of Women and the business sector dealing with labour issues.
“About 20 people came together representing the three groups and we really focused on how to develop the national labour work programme, a decent work programme that has never been done in the past,” Demmke said.
“We also talked about setting up national labour advisory board that has also never been done in the past. I think it’s recognition of an awareness that labour needs to be acknowledged because of its importance in the economy.”
A planned approach was needed in dealing with labour issues, she said.
On September 16, the Labour and Employment Office will launch a “labour monograph” which will look into the number of local and foreign workers in the country, among other relevant details.
This project is sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund.
“September is a labour month in terms of really putting the spotlight on labour. We just need to get the structure in place and work from there,” Demmke said.
“Every country that has a workforce has issues - there are issues with employers and there are issues with employees. What we need though is solutions and that’s what we are working on now.”
ILO labour standards specialist Anne Boyd, who conducted the workshop, was pleased with the response from the parties involved.
One of the things she spoke about at the workshop was the role the ILO can play in providing technical support to the Cook Islands for government workers and employers.
“We are a tripartite organisation so some of the things we talked about were a sort of broad employment policy framework around what kind of support we are providing and around solving some of the harder labour market problems that many countries experience in different ways,” Boyd said.
Cook Islands’ Workers Association (CIWA) president Anthony Turua hopes the workshop will be the start of better things to come for workers in the near future.
He said CIWA now had “networking solidarity” with employers and government.
“This is a milestone. One of our priorities is to form a Cook Islands tripartite council which look at a broader issues about labour.
“These are mediation, regulations to the labour law, the health and safety issues, the foreign workers and labour mobility issues.
“With the technology and changes in the employment environment and landscape, we need to realign our legislation to the changes, and the ILO has been doing that to a lot of the other member countries in the Pacific.
“We are now a member and we can now tap on these resources to assist us in getting our legislation, regulations and policies in place to manage the labour issues.”
In June this year, the Cook Islands became the 186th member of the International Labour Organisation.