SEE BELOW STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE OPPOSITION FOR LABOUR DAY 2023:
Today, May Day or Workers Day, we, in the PNCR and the Parliamentary Opposition, pause to say thank you to the thousands of you, past and present, who with your sacrifice of Blood, Sweat, Tears, Determination, and Dedication committed to the task of nation building, even in the face of oppression and suppression. We thank you for your continued love for the country amidst the trampling of your rights, the just past pandemic and the others that have plagued you as workers. You have shown great dexterity and resilience and for standing your ground have been bestowed with the crown as CHAMPIONS.
Today, it is with humility, strength from those whose back we now stand on, decency and gratitude that we address you, the wheel turners. The theme this year, we find to be apt and fitting as indeed stronger and progressive unions is what is required to respond to the challenges of today which have increased. However, it must be noted that Unions must continue to build capacity among its ranks if it were to achieve this feat of responding. More than that, Union Leaders must be equipped with the knowledge, skills and tact to be able to skillfully navigate the path successfully.
As you would have noticed, it is the Workers who have kept the wheels of this economy turning. It is the very workers who have been braving the effects of the high cost of living, non-recognition by an uncaring government, poverty and all the other ills that come along with it, but continue to give of their best, and it is for this simple fact, We must SALUTE YOU! Workers, we say, must be valued irrespective of their gender, race, creed, religion, position or job responsibilities. There should be no disparity between men and women, pro-government or anti-government. This principle is universal and it is one of the front runners that the Labour Movement and its Leaders must hold onto and continue to champion the cause of its implementation.
Conditions of work
Unfortunately, the present conditions of work are still not beneficial to workers, as we have witnessed over the last year the many workplace accidents (both fatal and nonfatal), and the abuses – physical, emotional and sexual in nature – that continue to prevail. Lives were lost, workers maimed and scared, yet the powers that be see these incidents/accidents as just a mere passing one simply because the ordinary worker is not important to them because you don’t fit into their grouping. As a matter of fact, in their minds and mode of operation it’s “Let’s carry on”. Our workers/citizens have been working under unacceptable conditions, for longer hours while receiving less money. These kinds of exploitations and atrocities must be fought back by all and sundry. On this very note we must ask what systems have been put in place to assist the families of so many others who have lost their lives or who have been maimed? What is the government doing to minimize these incidents/ accidents and the penalties? These must be made public.
You, our Working Class, deserve much better, especially since we, this country of ours, have been dubbed the “New Dubai” of the Caribbean and with the fastest growing economy. Our citizens/our workers must be able to live a better life. If this government wants us the citizens to take them seriously, then the President should, with immediate effect, commission the Judicial and Public Service Commission. He should appoint the Chancellor and the Chief Justice by Tuesday just like he did in another sector. For too long workers have been burdened with the task of being actors and actresses. Release those loops you have around the necks of our People. This government must understand that workers are having stood the test of time and should not be treated as beggars. They deserve to be appointed in every sector as is deemed fit by the conditions set out. Workers deserve job security. The President must stop holding contract appointments and acting over the heads of our citizens. May we hasten to add that this process must be free, fair and transparent.
As we have also recognized that in recent times the government has embarked on a route with the aim of putting workers against each other, and Union Leaders against each other. This new medicine of control must be rejected forthwith. Let us remind union leaders that you were not elected by the government and that you are not their puppets. You were elected by the Workers within the various sectors and your mandate is to serve and represent your membership without fear or favour, so let me caution you, don’t be dragged into the net of selling out your membership for a few pieces of silver because history will not be kind to you. Union Leaders must stand tall, decked out with decency, integrity and a commitment to fight for Equity, equality and fairness. Your struggle in essence should be to ensure and secure jobs, decent livable wages and conditions of work for your membership. We ask you leaders to raise your voice for better health care and secured retirement packages. As we are reminded by Aristotle who said, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”
In conclusion, the time has come for all of LABOUR to demand the return of Collective Bargaining. It is from this standpoint that our Citizens/our Workers will be given their rightful due. We must no longer accept across the board increases as this does not cater for inflation and the specifics as is required in the various sectors. This government must return to the table with union leaders. There’s an old saying that says, “Come see me and come live with me is a different thing.” We have seen that with this government and let us remind them: when you were in opposition you championed the call for the return of collective bargaining. You are in government now, do it!
Just in case you didn’t know, Labour is the Ladder through which Human Dignity and Creative Excellence is expressed.
So today and for every day, we will continue to salute you the Working Class, who have stood to the task of Nation Building amidst the challenges.
Long live the Working Class!
Happy Labour Day!