This year, we celebrate 80 years of modern day activism on the part of Jamaican workers.
In 1938, workers from Frome in Westmoreland to Serge Island in St Thomas, in the East and including notably the port workers of Kingston and the banana workers in St Mary and Portland, all rose up with one voice to protest the terrible and often sub-human conditions in which they worked and the low wages that were typical of that time.
Out of these struggles, the modern Trade Union Movement was formed and also our modern political parties.
Labour Day 2018 provides us once again with an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the tremendous contribution of the workers of Jamaica to national development.
It is an established fact that the workers and their trade unions led the drive for Jamaicans to get a livable wage and to establish the basic principles of collective bargaining, that over the years have secured benefits that include pension rights, leave with pay; protection against wrongful dismissal; nor should we forget the drive in the 1970s to secure maternity leave with pay; equal pay for women; and redundancy pay, among other rights.
The advocacy of the trade union movement through their political party affiliation also helped establish the National Insurance Scheme, a national minimum wage, and other programmes, including expanded access to education.
Today, as we celebrate the role of the Workers’ Movement, let us also resolve to protect the gains that have been won for the ordinary Jamaican working people.
We must put an end to the fiction of designating workers as ‘independent contractors’ which is gaining traction in some industries.
This device denies workers in the various industries, including Security Guards, their right to collective bargaining and to the benefits it provides.
Also, we must continue to insist that public sector pension and the national minimum wage keep pace with the rise in the real cost of living facing the workers today.
Labour Day 2018 gives us an opportunity to celebrate the dignity of work by making a contribution to work project in our (various) communities. This year’s focus is on improving (providing) access to members of the disabled community to facilities such as our roads, schools and our health centres.
In this regard, I want to pay particular tribute to Senator Dr. Floyd Morris, whose advocacy secured the focus of this year’s Labour Day activities on the needs of the disabled community.
We must pay tribute to him for reminding us that disabled persons continue to make a vital contribution to the well-being of our nation and that we, in turn, have an obligation to secure their dignity and well-being as we build a Jamaica that provides opportunities for all of its people.
Let us take this opportunity to salute each and every Jamaican who is going out to work in one of the many Labour Day projects organised in their communities.
May we have a safe and productive Labour Day as we wish God’s continuous blessings on
Jamaica and its people.
God bless you all…