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  • Today, as we celebrate Labour Day under the theme: ‘Restore, Preserve, Beautify’, we honour our workers whose glorious history of struggle for justice led to a broader victory for Jamaican society.
  • The 1938 labour revolts on the Kingston Waterfront and in other parts of the island led to the establishment of a Royal Commission of Enquiry, and in that very year the Commission made a trip to Jamaica.
  • Today, we salute the members of our working class whose refusal to accept the status quo of inequality, bequeathed to us a set of freedoms which we all cherish. Indeed, as our Labour Day theme admonishes, we have to “Restore…Preserve… Beautify”.

Today, as we celebrate Labour Day under the theme: ‘Restore, Preserve, Beautify’, we honour our workers whose glorious history of struggle for justice led to a broader victory for Jamaican society.

The 1938 labour revolts on the Kingston Waterfront and in other parts of the island led to the establishment of a Royal Commission of Enquiry, and in that very year the Commission made a trip to Jamaica.

One of the pivotal recommendations of the Moyne Commission was for the adoption of Universal Adult Suffrage and a new constitution for Jamaica.

As a result of that cry against oppression coming from our workers in the 1930s, Jamaica adopted a new constitution in 1944 which granted the right to vote to Jamaicans who had no property outside of their labour.

The struggle for Human Rights is indivisible. Each generation has a sacred obligation to advance that quest, building on the sacrifices of the past.

Today, we salute the members of our working class whose refusal to accept the status quo of inequality, bequeathed to us a set of freedoms which we all cherish. Indeed, as our Labour Day theme admonishes, we have to “Restore…Preserve… Beautify”.

We have to restore not just our historical monuments, but our historical memory. We are a great people and we must be mindful of their history and the burden of responsibility it imposes on us.

We must preserve our historical heritage, making the relevant links so our young people can draw inspiration from the courage, tenacity and resilience shown by their forebears. And we must beautify not only our physical environment but our spirit; with the fragrance of optimism, faith, resourcefulness, dignity and good neighbourliness.

We must never succumb to the spirit of defeat. We must meet fear with faith as we pursue economic prosperity. Martin Luther King Jnr was fond of quoting these lines: “Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered.

There was no one there”. Our history has taught us that lesson very well. Whenever our faith has responded to the presence of fear, fear has taken flight. Let us never doubt our ability to overcome our challenges.

On this Labour Day we remember those whose examples of courage fortify our spirit and we recognize those who display that same courage today.

I have seen it in action during the recent flood rains. Jermaine and Jamauno Riley and their friend Ramone Peart of Sunnyside, St. Catherine, have shown the true spirit of courage and community, rescuing their neighbours, from ravishing flood waters, in their time of greatest need.

As a people we salute them. Together, we have a duty to reach out to our neighbours, and those in our communities as they put their lives and properties back together.

The thrust of the Government’s Economic Policy is to advance the welfare of our workers and to improve people’s standard of living. In January, this year there were nearly 22,000 more persons employed than there were in January 2016. Unemployment today is lower than it was a year ago.

We are opening up more employment opportunities to our people. I recently announced the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme which aims to provide employment to some 15,000 of our unattached, at-risk young people.

There are significant employment opportunities opening up in the BPO sector, in Tourism and in the Mining Sector; we are expecting an additional 3,000 persons to be employed as a result of some $2 billion in investments being poured into that sector.

Employment in our Special Economic Zones and Logistics-centered activities will further boost employment.

On this Labour Day, workers can have confidence that they have a bright future and that things are aligning in their interests. Last year, the economy grew by 1.4%, the highest in four years. Workers benefit when the economy grows. Economic stagnation hurts workers.

The fact that we are having historically low inflation rates is also a significant benefit to workers. That there has been a 14.8% expansion in bank credit to the private sector in 2016 compared to 9.6% in 2015 is a plus for workers’ interests. The interests of workers have also been advanced by initiatives the Government has taken in healthcare and education.

We recognize that to keep faithful to the mandate of the workers movement which blossomed in the 1930s, we have to put in much work today. As heirs of National Heroes Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Washington Manley, we can do no less.

I call upon you, fellow Jamaicans, to recapture that spirit of self-sacrifice which motivated those men, and men like St. William Grant, AGS Coombs as well as women such as Aggie Bernard, Lady Bustamante and Edna Manley. Let us go out into our communities today and display that spirit of volunteerism that Jamaica needs.

Plant a tree…Refurbish a building…Help preserve a monument…Help your neighbour clean up from the recent floods….See what needs to be done and give a helping hand.

Our two national projects will involve the refurbishing of the Ward Theatre and the Central Police station. Culture and security have a synergy that might not be immediately evident. But I believe, fellow Jamaicans that a kinder, gentler, more cultured Jamaica, proud of its heritage, is one that is organically secure.

Our culture should deepen our bonds and reduce our tensions. Culture uplifts and inspires, and clears away the fog of divisiveness and bitterness. It nurtures that spirit of love and caring that really represents the quintessential Jamaican.

As we prepare to celebrate Jamaica 55—and there is much to celebrate—let us use this Labour Day to “Restore. Preserve…Beautify”. We owe it to Jamaica, land we so love.