Monday is Labour Day, a holiday for workers here in Saint Lucia and in several other parts of the world. Working Saint Lucians, over the years, have enjoyed, to a significant degree, a peaceful and profitable working relationship with their respective employers. The Labour landscape is not all smooth though, as now and again, a grievance or two will rear its head, as was seen two weeks ago when employees of the National Insurance Corporation downed their tools and locked horns with their employer.
Generally, the relationship today between workers and employers in this small island could be deemed mutually respectful, with some level of trust thrown in. This was not always the case in times past. It was largely through trade unions and their agitation on behalf of workers, that today Saint Lucian workers enjoy the quality of life they have.
We find it fitting, therefore, to propose to this year’s Labour Day organisers the need to remind ourselves of trade unions and the role they have played in the Labour movement in Saint Lucia. They have a long history of fighting, and winning, battles for better wages, better working conditions and stronger protection for workers, all of which have improved the lives of working Saint Lucians.
Saint Lucian workers must be thankful to his/her respective trade union and the men and women of those organisations who take to the streets so that Saint Lucian workers can live a decent life earning decent wages in an environment conducive to their wellbeing as humans.
The trade unions here have never faltered in the fight for justice for the working Saint Lucian. Not only have trade unions made the work environment safer for workers, they have also brought equality to men and women in the workplace. They are the ones who led the way to reforms in all aspects of the workforce, including occupational health and safety. They have and continue to battle against discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
But the work of the trade unions is not over. It never will be. Workers still face challenges, some old, some new, and the trade unions must be ready to continue working on behalf of workers.
The establishment of a minimum wage is still, and surprisingly so, a problem in Saint Lucia. The next fight for trade unions is to protect those in the low-income bracket from wage exploitation. One way of doing so is to ensure the establishment of a minimum wage for the country. This is a problem they have been grappling with for decades.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has changed things at some workplaces – wages have been cut at some businesses as those businesses struggle to get back to pre-Covid levels. Even working conditions at some workplaces have been altered by the pandemic. Despite that, trade unions have improvised and continue to lead the way in ensuring that workers are protected as much as possible, fighting for fair wages on workers behalf.
In fact, what trade unions here have shown us, is that even in these trying times, they have no intention of wavering in their bid to improve the life of workers. It is this level of determination and purpose coming from trade unions that we need to proclaim this Labour Day.
This Labour Day, let us all say a big thank you to trade unions on the island, and the men and women who, as trade unionists, have blazed the trail to drive the change workers in Saint Lucia are now enjoying.
We, the workers, are grateful for what you have done for us. But don’t just thank a trade union, act and get involved with a trade union. And so, we call on workers to show support for their bargaining agents.
Mark Labour Day 2023 as Trade Union Day. Celebrate the benefits of your trade union membership. Let’s not take our trade unions for granted. For those not yet members of a trade union, remember this: You cannot go wrong by joining a trade union. The benefits are huge. Join now.