The struggle of the Jamaican people for equal rights and justice began centuries ago, from the onset of Africans being brought to these shores for the exploitation of their unpaid labour, for the struggle for independence from colonial rule emerged out of the widespread labour unrest of 1938.
From those events of 1938, the labour movement has been at the vanguard of the struggle of the Jamaican people for a fair and just society in which the rights of all Jamaicans are respected, and all our people are treated with dignity, embodying the principle articulated by the late great
Dennis Brown when he sang – “Every man has an equal right to live and be free; no matter what colour, class or race he may be”.
It was the Rt. Excellent Norman Washington Manley who, as Premier of Jamaica forging the will of the Nation to move to political independence, in 1961 proclaimed the National Labour Day as a national holiday to replace the colonial “Empire Day”. It thereupon became the day each year on which Jamaicans commemorate the labour unrest of May 1938 and the lives which were lost in protest for better pay and working conditions.
In 1972, Prime Minister Michael Manley introduced a new element to Labour Day, to make it the day on which Jamaicans give back to our nation by engaging in voluntary work activities to uplift and build their communities.
Since then, on the 23rd of each May every year, Jamaicans from all walks of life come together to beautify and improve their communities, displaying the true Jamaican spirit of solidarity and brotherhood.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the last two years we were unable to undertake the Labour Day activities which we are used to, and the annual work came to a halt.
Happily, as we adjust to life with COVID we once again have the opportunity to come together in our communities, paint our schools and our pedestrian walkways, sweep the roads, clean up the beaches, plant trees and so much more.
We celebrate Labour Day this year under the theme, “Mek Jamaica Cris an Clean”, and I want to encourage all Jamaicans to do at least one voluntary activity in your communities today. Get involved, make a positive impact on your community, and enjoy the feeling of good vibes that flows from an honest day’s voluntary work to improve your surroundings!
This year, Jamaica will celebrate our 60th Anniversary of political independence under the theme, “Reigniting a Nation for Greatness”. We can use this moment to embark on the restoration of traditional practices that contributed to the development of our Nation.
For example, we all remember the common phrase, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, and the one-time slogan “Don’t be a litterbug”. There was a time when we were much more conscious of the importance of being mindful of our surroundings and keeping them cleaner and tidy. We need to get back to that mindset, as our country is awash with uncollected garbage strewn on roadsides and open lots all over the place. We can do better than that!
Each one of us has personal responsibility. We should not leave it to others, or to the Government. That mindset only keeps us back from achieving our national goals. We must take personal responsibility for our surroundings, not only on Labour Day but every day.
Jamaica is a beautiful country, among the most beautiful places on this earth. Let us take pride in our surroundings and be agents of a positive change towards restoring the natural beauty of our country.
This Labour Day, as we engage in activities to “Mek Jamaica Cris an Clean”, whether through national projects, in our regions and parishes, or in our communities, or even in our homes, I hope that we will enjoy a productive and rewarding day for the betterment of us all.
So, as you put the sweat of your brow into Labour Day, in the true Jamaican spirit, may God bless you and keep you safe.