BITU welcomes digital transformation, upskilling of labour force

PRESIDENT of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) Senator Kavan Gayle is urging islandwide support for the transformation of technology in all sectors of the Jamaican workforce.

He said this is necessary in both the private and public sector, and as digitisation continues to shape the world of work, the BITU and its affiliates are determined to negotiate the impact of its transition collectively.

Senator Gayle was speaking at last Thursday’s Digital Transformation and Upskilling of the Labour Force symposium at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston, where a blend of trade unionists, innovators, skilled digital transformers and workers from all levels of employment in the labour community discussed the digital transformation of the economy, which has been accelerated by the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and has brought about profound changes in the world of work.

He said that supported by artificial intelligence, new forms of automation, algorithmic management, and data collection are transforming workplaces in every sector.

“We are witnessing a shift, a revolution in the way we conduct business and labour, and now, more than ever, it is essential that we as trade unionists, employers, and the State expand our collective capacity to address the evolving needs of workers in an increasingly digitalised world of work. Our primary objective is to ensure that this transformation becomes a shared benefit for all,” he added.

Gayle noted that the 85-year-old trade union, which was formed by National Hero Sir Alexander Bustamante “and built on the backs of stalwarts like the Most Honourable Hugh Lawson Shearer”, is maintaining one of its key tenets, which is improving the capacity of workers, as has been the case since its founding.

“We seek to hold an interactive and innovative symposium focused on digital transformation and upskilling of the labour force,” he said. He explained that the symposium is intended to promote improvement in the competence of workers through the transfer of knowledge and awareness.

Another important objective, he said, is the forging of partnerships towards upgrading “Jamaica’s human capital, as well as the country’s overall productivity”. However, he warned BITU delegates and members that “fundamental transformation cannot be successfully achieved without partnership”.

Guest speaker Senator Dr Dana Morris Dixon, minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with direct oversight for skills and digital transformation, said plans are already in place to revamp the country’s apprenticeship programme.

“This is another thing that we have not used in the way it was used in the past, and we are working on apprenticeship 2.0 and that, too, is going to be leading us in the upskilling path, and that is something that we want the unions to partner with us on,” she said.