New chair of the National Productivity Council (NPC) Dr André Vincent Henry is confident that the recently reconstituted body will come up with new ideas and strategies that will lead to a more efficient workforce, which will eventually strengthen the economy.
Henry spent five years, from 2001 to 2005 at the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) office in Port-of-Spain, where he managed a regional productivity project.
Dr Henry served as a consultant from 2006 to 2017 throughout the Caribbean in the areas of productivity and strategic planning. From 2017 to present, Dr Henry has served as director at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies, Valsayn. He also continues consultancy in his core areas of specialisation of productivity in organisations.
“Increased productivity would not necessarily increase diversification of the economy, but what we need to do as we diversify, we need to have high levels of productivity in whatever areas we need to diversify into. So if we identify what we want to go after in terms of diversifying the economy, it is necessary for us to put in place the systems that would foster greater productivity.
“If we want to address productivity we must address it from a holistic standpoint and not just on an inappropriate focus only on the productivity of labour. You can have productivity at the level of a company or at the levels of a sector. It seems to me that productivity is not arithmetic. It seems to me it is more algebra as there are so many unknowns,” Henry told the Business Guardian.
He said he believes that T&T workers can be productive as workers in other economies globally. However he believes that the current management structures in businesses, as well as national problems like deficient infrastructure, such as roads and traffic, must be solved.
“I would not say that T&T workers are any less productive than anywhere else. You always hear the story about a Trini who would leave T&T and work six jobs in the United States. This tells you that something is wrong with the systems in place in T&T. If a worker reaches to work late, does the management hold this worker accountable? Did management find out the problem? Was the worker disciplined? Have you ever seen the level of productivity in producing Carnival goods and services? There’s the average productivity of the panman who would go to the panyard and stay until two in the morning.
“How do we make productivity in T&T contextual? How to achieve what we do well, how to transfer this in other areas of our lives. This is an area the Council will research.”
He also called on business leaders to play their part in developing modern systems that would get employees to be more productive.
“We have business people in T&T and managers who continue to use an approach to motivation of staff that is not appropriate to the circumstances that we have. We have a lot of managers who are not leaders. There are people who are trying to get staff and employees to do things by using outmoded techniques and more the whip rather than other forms of persuasion. Labour is only one factor, there is also the productivity of management, the productivity of technology, productivity of electricity. You can improve productivity by impacting on any input into a productive process.”
According to the Ministry of Labour’s website, the reconstituted National Productivity Council was given the mandate to promote increased productivity and quality awareness and it is expected that this will lend to new values and bring about changes in both attitudes and behaviour patterns in the areas of productivity, quality and competitiveness.
The Ministry of Labour also said that these new policies will assist Government on the formulation of national guidelines, strategies on all aspects of productivity, quality and competitiveness in addition to developing and adopting key indicators of productivity for T&T.
Minister of Labour, Stephen Mc Clashie, appointed 16 new members to the National Productivity Council at a signing ceremony held on October 4, 2023 at the Ministry of Labour’s Head Office, International Waterfront Towers, Port-of-Spain.
ILO and productivity
Henry spoke about how the ILO has shaped the new National Productivity Council.
“The NPC in this incarnation was created back in 2009. That was the second iteration of a National Productivity Council, which was initially formed back in the 1970s. The chairman during that era was economist Dr Ralph Henry. This current iteration came about from work that was done from the ILO around 2001. A lot of it was driven by the former president of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Ian Collier, who had a strong passion for productivity.”
He spoke about the functions of the NPC.
“Our remit is fairly wide and consistent with the model that the International Labour Organisation is a proponent of. The ILO has a guidebook of how to set up a productivity council. The new Council will measure productivity, raise awareness of productivity and develop productivity improvement plans. We looked at all the things you can look at in productivity because while there is a simple equation for productivity, which is output over input, what we know is that there are at least four levels at which there are productivity challenges where you can measure productivity and try to influence or improve productivity. This includes the societal level, the policy level, the sector level and the level of the firm or micro level.”
Henry also said that a tripartite committee was set up in the NPC to determine the next steps to be taken.
“We appointed a tripartite committee to reflect what we are, with a representative from the Government, academia and labour movement. At our next meeting they will bring a research design where we can do an assessment. Part of the problem with productivity is like politics, everybody feels that they are an expert and they don’t understand the ramifications and the dynamics of productivity. We want to be clear about the challenges and how we will seek to address the challenges. This research will tell us is how to attack the productivity issue with a view for making the most significant impact possible in the shortest period of time.”
He added that the Central Statistical Office (CSO) is also represented on the National Productivity Council’s board and it shows the direction the body wants to take.
“It shows that the NPT is committed to address productivity on the basis of evidence and data. The Council has membership from the Government, the private sector, the labour movement and representation from academia such as the University of the West Indies (UWI).”