Labour is the most important factor in production. It is the embodiment of the creativity, energy, enterprise and industry of the people.
It is the human spirit and endeavour physically manifested in the wealth, goods and services produced for the enjoyment and advancement of society.
The historical context of Jamaica is best described as the struggle of labour to be free of the tyranny of slavery, where labour was forced, was not rewarded, and denied access and opportunity to benefit from the wealth it created.
A hundred years after the ending of slavery, not much had changed for the human condition of Jamaican labour. Though, now out of shackles, workers were not fairly reward or recognize and the working classes did not have reasonable opportunity to share in, and enjoy the wealth, goods and services that their very labour helped produce and without which as a people we would be perpetually condemned to poverty.
The extreme conditions of repression, exploitation and colonialism led to the 1938 Labour Riots which marked the turning point for the creation of the modern independent Jamaica. Labour Day has its origins in the struggles and protests of the Jamaican workers and their victories opened the doors for modern legal and legitimate trade union activities.
It was this labour movement which also gave birth to the political movement in Jamaica. This movement was the foundation for our democratic system. It was during this period that the bravery and courage and of our pioneers were demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt.
We owe a debt of gratitude to those who fought for our freedom many of whom paid the ultimate sacrifice. We must pay homage to the Rt. Excellent Sir William Alexander Bustamante, the Rt. Excellent Norman Washington Manley, St. William Grant and a large supporting group of determined torch bearers.
As we celebrate Labour Day let us give thanks to the workers of Jamaica. They deserve our recognition for the selfless dedication they have shown since 1938 to the economic, social and political development of our nation.
Today I wish to restate that appreciation and to thank each and every worker particularly in the public sector for their continued contributions and sacrifices to the building of our nation.
As we move forward into the next 50 years of our independence and beyond, we must now boldly confront longstanding problems and emerging challenges facing labour.
The attention of the enitre nation is focused on growth.
A pre-condition for sustaineded growth is improved productivity of the labour force. This must come with the recognition that our human resources are our most valuable natural asset.
Government must now actively frame a human capital development policy and strategy that involves education and training which is more closely aligned with the needs of industry and national development.
A deepening crisis facing the Jamaican labour market is the rising levels of youth unemployment which is now almost 3 times the national average.
Planning for the future must specifically focus on our youth and making them employable. We must improve the capacity of our technical and skills training system and we must now create a national apprenticiship program to expose them to the world of work under controlled conditions where they can give voluntary service in exchange for experience and exposure.
Labour Day in Jamaica is also a showcase of volunteerism in national development.
Today, I will be volunteering in communities with various projects in housing and beautification, lending my hand to build our land.
I call on all Jamaicans to participate and play your part in building our beloved Jamaica.
Let us all go out work and enjoy the day.
May God bless Jamaica land we love.