- Once again, we pause to observe Labour Day and to reflect on the many struggles, sacrifices and achievements of those Jamaicans who paved the way in securing the rights and freedoms that Jamaican workers enjoy today.
- The campaign for a fair day’s wages in return for a fair day’s work started from the time of plantation slavery.
- On this day in 1832, the family and friends of our National Hero Samuel Sharpe were mourning his brutal murder, because he was hanged on May 23 in that year.
My fellow Jamaicans:
Once again, we pause to observe Labour Day and to reflect on the many struggles, sacrifices and achievements of those Jamaicans who paved the way in securing the rights and freedoms that Jamaican workers enjoy today.
The campaign for a fair day’s wages in return for a fair day’s work started from the time of plantation slavery.
On this day in 1832, the family and friends of our National Hero Samuel Sharpe were mourning his brutal murder, because he was hanged on May 23 in that year.
What was his crime? He stood up for the rights of those Jamaicans who toiled on the sugar estates and in the great houses at the time.
The colonial rulers believed that by removing this fearless leader they would kill the workers’ struggle.
They were wrong.
They did not bargain on a Paul Bogle or an Elizabeth Taylor emerging in Morant Bay in 1865 to champion the cause of the working class even after slavery had ended.
They did not anticipate the resolve of the sugar workers at Frome in Westmoreland or the dock workers of Kingston, who, in 1938, took a determined stand for better working conditions for all workers.
Today we pay tribute to those who gave inspiration to the very idea of Labour Day.
Among them: Kathleen Martin and her unborn child, as well as 16 year-old Moses Perrin, who were among the persons killed or injured during the workers struggle of 1938.
We also remember Aggie Bernard, Edna Manley and other women, who fed the workers daily as they pressed for better wages and conditions of work.
On Labour Day, we recall too, the early leadership given to the workers’ movement by persons such as Norman Manley, Sir Alexander Bustamante, Allan Coombs and St. William Grant.
Today, we remember the work of our forefathers and foremothers who gave their service, and in some instances, their lives, so that we could have a free Jamaica, where the rights of workers are respected and upheld.
My fellow Jamaicans:
I also pay tribute to the dedicated workers of today, who are important pillars of our nation. I regard workers in both the private and public sectors as a special group, who continue to build our country, as together we work for sustained economic growth and the creation of more high quality jobs.
Workers of Jamaica, I thank you for your sacrifices, your support and your understanding.
Your cooperation continues to play a key role in ensuring the ongoing success of Jamaica’s Economic Reform Programme.
I urge you to remain committed to the goal of achieving growth, economic expansion, job creation and a higher standard of living for all our workers and their families.
I believe that the ultimate improvement in the lives of workers is one way of ensuring that the labour struggles of 1938 were not in vain.
In celebration of our workers, our tradition in Jamaica is to put labour into Labour Day, and to use the occasion to improve our communities.
This year is no different as we give focused attention to the protection of our children.
The theme for Labour Day 2015, is “Labour of Love: Nurturing Our Children”. I therefore encourage all of us to get involved in creating spaces of beauty and safety in our communities where our children can play, learn and enjoy the innocence of their childhood.
In nurturing our little ones, let us reject all forms of oppression of children such as child abuse and child labour.
Let us make a clean break from the pages of history where the names of children are recorded as slave workers on the Spring Plantation in Constant Spring, St. Andrew. Children like: Sarah, Phibba, Sue, Little Quasheba, Offy and Rose.
I make a special appeal for our children to be allowed to grow up and benefit from the efforts and the lessons of our ancestors, our heroes and heroines.
Let our labour of love protect our children from the cruel and undeserving fate of Jameila Johnson, Kayalicia Simpson, Santoya Campbell, Raymond Givens, Ricardo Briscoe, and Alex Turner, who are among the several children brutally murdered this year.
We must also create nurturing environments as we work for the safe return of children who are still listed as missing from their homes. Children like: Andrew Garwood, Aneesha Dixon, Adrian Henderson, Ashli Brown, Odaine Tyrell, Barbara Coley and many others.
I encourage all Jamaicans to utilise Labour Day as a platform for working together in the interest of our children, who are the soul and future of our nation.
I paraphrase the words of the Caribbean writer, Martin Carter:
Who will awaken one little flower
Sleeping and growing hour after hour
Dew is awake, morning is soon
Let our children rise like flowers in bloom.
On this Labour Day, may God bless you, and may God bless the workers and the children of Jamaica, land we love.