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Speech

Fellow Jamaicans, Labour Day activities this year are being held against the background of the global economic crisis that has engulfed us.
We must not allow the spirit of Labour Day to be dampened by the crisis. On the contrary, it is because the global crisis has imposed such severe constraints on us nationally and individually that the spirit of volunteerism and altruism must come to the fore, impelling us to get out and do things for ourselves and for others.
It does not always have to be big things. It can be small things, for even small things can help in a big way to make life better for many people. It may be a basic school that needs to be cleaned up and fixed up. It may be a poor old lady whose roof is leaking and a little help from others can keep her from getting wet. It may be a drain that needs to be cleared so that homes are not flooded when the hurricane rains start.
This year, we have also made the Labour Day theme flexible enough to encourage any kind of individual or community effort that is meaningful and useful.
This year, also, we have increased the number of national Labour Day projects to 6, not only to remove any appearance of partisan considerations, but as part of a planned approach to having a national Labour Day project in each parish next year.
So, let’s put work into Labour Day. And let us put our hearts and minds to demonstrate that though things may be tough, we have not lost our sense of caring or our willingness to help others and help ourselves.
Labour Day was originally the day for honouring the workers of Jamaica. Since 1972 when former Prime Minister the Most Hon. Michael Manley introduced work projects as the dominant activity for Labour Day, the workers, in a remarkable display of selflessness, have used the day to give back something to their communities and the nation.
But we must not forget that Labour Day is also a commemoration of the struggles of the working class people of Jamaica and the efforts that have been made to secure workers’ rights and to cement the partnership between labour and capital, between worker and management.
That partnership is even more necessary now as businesses struggle to endure the harsh economic times and workers strive to keep their jobs. I commend those employers who, despite many challenges, are determined to protect the jobs of their employees. I commend those workers who appreciate how tough these times are and are making even greater effort at the workplace to overcome these challenges.
We are not out of the woods. The crisis will continue for some time but it will not last forever.
Hard work, understanding and the kind of co-operation that defines the spirit of Labour Day will enable us to overcome and, I know, we shall overcome.
God bless you all. God bless Jamaica. Have a peaceful and productive Labour Day.