This year Worker’s Week is being observed during the period May 17-25 under the theme “By the Sweat of my Brow an Overview of the Jamaican Labour Movement”. The celebrations represent the 71st anniversary of the modern labour movement. Many of us would remember the upheavals in May 1938 when the working people of Jamaica broke with the colonial Government, achieving for themselves the rights, which they had been denied for an entire century.
The experiences of this time led to modern Jamaica, where all our workers can now enjoy the many liberties afforded a democratic society. The Jamaican worker, in achieving these triumphs amidst the greatest odds is now able to set goals that will bring prosperity to himself and his family.
In recognising the sacrifices of our forefathers, let us remember that we have come of age having one of the best cadre of workers in the region. With the birth of the labour movement workers are able to come together more solidly as they bargain. Over the years the trade union movement has been unyielding in its attempt to improve the quality of life of the Jamaican worker. They have managed to achieve significant benefits such as: . Maternity Leave. Redundancy Payment. Right to Representation for all categories of workers.
The volatility in the global financial market now poses another challenge to our workers, and I am confident that together we will overcome this. This crisis has changed the rules, impacting the labour force in the most devastating manner. Since, the last quarter of last year, over 15,000 workers have been displaced. It is against this back drop that the Ministry of Labour and Social Security continues to bring to the fore the need for a social safety net for workers during these challenging times.
Obviously, the harsh realities will demand mature and intelligent leadership. It is a time when trade unions more than ever will have to make sound judgments as we seek consensus for the way forward. It is the responsibility of the worker and their representatives, managers and Government to join together in fostering a cohesive and resilient society.
As we look to the future we must commit to re-tooling and re-skilling our workers to compete fairly in a borderless society. The decent work agenda must be of paramount importance. Decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives. . It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income. Security in the workplace and social protection for families. Better prospects for personal development and social integration. Freedom for people to express their concerns, organise and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity.
These are underpinnings that must be the hallmark of the 21st century labour arena. In saluting the workers, let us also be reminded of the contribution of our employers. For without capital there is no labour, we therefore will have to work in greater partnership.
Lastly, the creativity and diversity of the Jamaican worker and the remarkable aspiration to be on the move is a unique quality that will continue to position them to realise the respect of all both locally and internationally.

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