LABOUR DAY SLOGAN:
“STAY HOME. STAY SAFE. CLEAN UP YU SPACE”
Fellow Jamaicans, Workers’ Week and Labour Day 2021 find us still in the grip of the pandemic. Consequently, the overall theme – Safeguarding our Labour Force amid COVID-19 – is particularly relevant.
In July 2020, almost 5 months after our first coronavirus case, employment fell by an estimated 135,000 jobs compared to July 2019. As at January 2021, 74,300 jobs had been lost compared to January 2020. While this shows that there is some recovery taking place as the economy adapts to the pandemic, we are still some way off from recovering all the jobs we have lost and creating net new jobs above pre-pandemic levels. These statistics do not convey the full sense of dislocation and hardship being experienced on a human level, by those 74,000 persons who have been without income, faced with bills and family to feed.
Nevertheless, and despite a falloff in public revenues of $76 billion Jamaican dollars, the government has managed the public’s finances in such a way as to ensure that job security and income of public sector workers have not been adversely affected during the pandemic. The government also responded with a comprehensive $20 billion CARE programme of social support to assist the vulnerable, and those who have lost jobs or income.
This provided relief and support to approximately 50,000 Jamaican workers for a period of 9 months. In addition, approximately 500,000 Jamaicans received direct cash transfers.
Never before, has any administration responded to a crisis in such a comprehensive, efficient, transparent, accountable and equitable way. Government cannot carry a social support programme indefinitely with falling revenues. We must get our economy back on track and our people back to work. That is why we have announced the $60 Billion Social and Economic Recovery and Vaccination for Jamaica (the SERVE programme), which will provide the foundation for the country’s economic revival.
Already, we are seeing the positive effects on economic recovery for countries that have attained high vaccination levels; we cannot be left behind.
- We will be spending over $30 billion on infrastructure, including the Montego Bay Perimeter Road, which will mobilize local labour and skills.
- We will be spending $10.5 billion in special resources on Health, including $6 billion on vaccines to ensure that our workers are healthy and develop immunity to the coronavirus.
- We will spend $5 billion on support for Micro Small and Medium Size businesses, to ensure that they can withstand the economic ravishes of the pandemic and continue to create the jobs and incomes for those 74,000 persons and their families who may be without jobs and income.
- We will be spending $8.1 billion in additional care and social wellbeing support for the vulnerable and those unable to work or earn an income.
- We will be spending $1.7 billion for rural farm roads and productivity incentives to boost agricultural employment and production.
- We will be spending $1.8 billion to expand Wi-Fi and broadband in schools and communities, especially the rural areas so that our children can get access to online education, and workers can work remotely where necessary and practical.
Economic recovery is in the best interest of labour. We must rapidly implement our highway and infrastructure construction projects, our broadband access project, and support our businesses to return to full productivity. We must also get vaccinated as soon as vaccines are available, and it is our turn. This will ensure that we all can go back to work safely and earn an income.
Our Jamaican workers have historically been vocal and assertive in defending their interest. As workers we must reject all those who seem to have no genuine interest in our speedy economic recovery and would seek to delay our infrastructure development and discourage us from taking vaccines. They do not have the workers’ interest, your best interest at heart.
Labour Day is a time in which we recognize and celebrate the contribution of the worker and the Labour Struggle to national development. It is significant that Workers’ Week this year coincides with the execution of Right Excellent Sam Sharpe, National Hero on May 23, 1832, which was precipitated by the 1831 Sam Sharpe War.
I must seize the opportunity to recognize salute our workers who continue to display resilience and determination during this pandemic, those whose daily sacrifices have ultimately been responsible for the safety and security of our communities. I speak of the first responders, law enforcement, essential service providers and many others. We recognize and thank every single one of you. You have all helped us to navigate the worst of the pandemic and we are immeasurably grateful.
We celebrate the contribution of Labour Day to National development by promoting collective engagement on behalf of the wider community.
This year, Labour Day which will be celebrated on Monday, May 24th will indeed be different. With an all-day curfew, it is a “no movement” day.
Therefore, we will not be able to carry out the many community projects traditionally linked to the day.
We however invite Jamaicans to be creative and carry out activities around their homes. Under the theme – Promoting a Clean and Healthy Environment – I invite us to focus on cleaning up and beautifying our homes and surroundings.
We encourage you this Labour Day, to Stay Home … Stay Safe … Clean Up Yu Space.
Happy Workers Week and Happy Labour Day!