Panel Discussion to Begin Workers’ Week

Photo: Contributed Senior Research Fellow of the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank, David Brown.

Story Highlights

  • A panel discussion, titled ‘Reparation and the Modern Labour Movement in Jamaica’, will be held on Monday, May 14 at the Institute of Jamaica Lecture Hall, 10-16 East Street, Kingston, beginning at 11:00 a.m.
  • The panel discussion is being organised by the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank (ACIJ/JMB), a division of the Institute of Jamaica, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.
  • Speakers at the event are President of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Steven Golding; Researcher at the Centre for Reparation, Jodi-Ann Quarrie; and Head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Institute, Danny Roberts. Moderator is former lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Professor Rupert Lewis.

A panel discussion, titled ‘Reparation and the Modern Labour Movement in Jamaica’, will be held on Monday, May 14 at the Institute of Jamaica Lecture Hall, 10-16 East Street, Kingston, beginning at 11:00 a.m.

The two-hour event is the first activity to commemorate Workers’ Week, being celebrated under the theme ‘Preserving our Legacy, Unfolding Progress’. Workers’ Week, which begins on May 14, will culminate on Labour Day, May 23.

The panel discussion is being organised by the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank (ACIJ/JMB), a division of the Institute of Jamaica, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.

Speakers at the event are President of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Steven Golding; Researcher at the Centre for Reparation, Jodi-Ann Quarrie; and Head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Institute, Danny Roberts. Moderator is former lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Professor Rupert Lewis.

Senior Research Fellow of the ACIJ/JMB, David Brown, told JIS News that each speaker will give insight into the topic for about 10 minutes, after which there will be discussions and a question and answer session.

He said the riots at the Frome Sugar Factory in May 1938, the arguments for the improvement of workers’ rights, especially in contemporary Jamaica, and the arguments for reparation will be part of the discussion.

“We want members of the public to come and to listen to the arguments that are put forward. We want them to understand why Workers’ Week is important; what the struggles were that workers had to go through to gain the rights that they have, and… the situations and conditions that existed prior to 1938 that made workers in Jamaica restive and [that] they had to protest to get these improvements,” he said.

He said that people need to understand the struggles the ancestors had to go through to champion the rights that Jamaicans now enjoy in the civil service and the private sector, noting that workers sometimes take benefits for granted, such as vacation leave, maternity pay for women, the regular nine-to-five workday, and sick leave. “None of those at the time were afforded to workers,” he added.

Mr. Brown said that this year marks the 80th anniversary of the 1938 riots in Frome, which he said triggered the “the genesis of the modern labour movement, which gave birth to the Trade Union Movement”.

He is encouraging the public, especially students, to attend the event, so as to understand the importance of Workers’ Week.

“We want as many students as possible who can attend to come, because the issue of riots and labour movement, and to some extent reparation, are part of the CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council) syllabi,” he added.

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