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NIS holds CARICOM Social Security workshop

NIS holds CARICOM  Social Security workshop

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A two day workshop on the CARICOM Social Security Reciprocal agreement is expected to end here today, Friday.{{more}}

The workshop, which started Wednesday, February 9, at the National Insurance Services (NIS) headquarters in Kingstown, brought together social security practitioners from 11 CARICOM territories, and is geared towards enhancing the understanding of the agreement.

The social security agreement was signed on March 1, 1996, in Georgetown, Guyana, and came into effect on April 1, 1997.

Under the agreement, CARICOM nationals’ entitlement to benefits is protected when moving from one country to another within the CARICOM Single Market.

It is crucial in the free movement of labour and applies to all persons who have worked in two or more countries that have implemented the agreement, or for persons looking to move.

Executive Director of the NIS Reginald Thomas said that the exercise was held for the re-examining of procedures and to help re-focus efforts in ensuring that the various social security agents around the region become more effective in administering the various systems, more effective and efficiently.

“But more so, to help us to be on the same page and the same line regarding the implementation of the agreement,” Thomas said during the opening ceremony.

He further outlined the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) view on the importance of social security, saying that social security practitioners are called to be more responsive and more responsible.

One of the points that came out at the workshop’s opening ceremony was the need for more awareness of the agreement.

This was articulated by Steven MacAndrew, Specialist in the CSME Unit who explained that although the agreement which addressed the issue of social security benefits for persons who may choose to move across the region had been implemented quite a while now, persons were of the mistaken notion that that there was the need for such a programme.

“Clearly, we need to promote the agreement more effectively,” MacAndrew said.

If anything else, MacAndrew said that the small number of individuals (200) who currently receive benefits under the agreement is an indication that more needs to be done to build awareness.

He subsequently lauded the NIS for organizing the workshop, noting that he anticipated that after the workshop, all participants would understand fully the concept.

Featured speaker, Maxwell Charles, Minister of National Reconciliation, Public Services, Labour, Information and Ecclesiastical Affairs, said that while some may argue that the movement of skilled labour has its negative consequences, he was of the opinion that professionals have the right to move.

“Professionals should have a choice of where best their skills can best be employed,” the minister said.

He, however, noted that the freedom of movement of workers meant that they have the right to the same treatment as nationals.

This is where the reciprocal agreement is crucial. (DD)