I am pleased to extend Workers Week and Labour Day greetings to all Jamaicans, in particular our workers.
Observing Workers’ Week is especially meaningful to me, given my portfolio responsibility as Minister of Labour and Social Security to advance the rights of workers, and promote harmonious working environments, job creation and human capital development.
This year, the celebration takes on added significance within the context of the country's 50th Anniversary of political Independence. Such occasions serve to remind us of the efforts and sacrifices of the working class.
Indeed, Worker’s Week bears testimony to the power, the strength and the accomplishments of the Jamaican labour force, which constitutes an important catalyst in nation-building. As we commemorate this special time set aside for workers, our reflections are marked with great pride.
We recall the upheavals in May 1938 when the working people of Jamaica challenged the colonial government, achieving for themselves rights which had been denied for an entire century.
The experiences and triumphs of that era led to developments in modern Jamaica in which workers enjoy the many liberties which define a democratic society.
Today, all categories of workers have the right to union representation and can bargain and make reasonable demands about the terms and conditions of employment. Workers are now able to set goals that will bring prosperity to themselves and their families and the nation as a whole.
The trade union movement must be commended for its work in promoting and protecting the rights of the workers and for many of the gains which they now enjoy.
Allow me also to acknowledge the efforts of our employers because capital is necessary for labour to be productive and contribute to national development. The Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) and employers, in general, have played a significant role in fostering tripartite dialogue and industrial harmony.
As we commence this Worker’s Week, and seek to build on the legacy of our forefathers, we must commit to retooling and re-skilling our workers to compete on an equal basis with others in a borderless world. The Decent Work Agenda – including improved regulations for workplace safety – must be of paramount importance, alongside increased employment opportunities for vulnerable groups such as persons with disabilities and youth making the school to work transition, comprehensive labour market reform, and a greater thrust for higher levels of productivity.
These will have to become imperatives as we move into the 21st century, and the Government remains committed to partnering with workers and their representatives, employers and other social partners to overcome challenges and transform workplaces.
Turning to Labour Day, which will be observed on Wednesday May 23, I use this occasion to encourage all Jamaicans to turn out in their numbers to undertake social intervention projects that will contribute to community enhancement and national development.
This year’s theme – “Step Forward, Make Jamaica Beautiful” – focuses on beautification, and, as our Honourable Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has emphasized, it will not be possible to honour our 50th Anniversary heritage without honouring ourselves and cleaning up our environment.
So we are being called on to “spruce-up” public spaces, including community centers and parks; repair or rebuild senior citizens homes; and give face-lift to schools. I call on all Jamaicans to participate – Parliamentarians, non-governmental organizations, civic groups, churches, community groups, youth clubs and associations and others.
Come out and put work into Labour Day and help to create an environment in which we can all take pride and comfort.
In closing, I congratulate the Labour Day Committee for its efforts and thank them for helping us to place greater value on our communities and our well-being this Labour Day.
I urge all Jamaicans to use this Workers Week and Labour Day as an opportunity to re-ignite and renew the spirit of unity, brotherhood and cooperation as we move closer to realizing our Vision 2030 Goal to make Jamaica the “place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business”.
I wish for all a memorable Workers Week and a productive Labour Day.
God bless you.