My Fellow Citizens and Residents,
Happy Labour Day!
Today is a Labour Day like no other. The onset of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much about life as we know it here in St. Kitts and Nevis. Along with the public health crisis it has engendered, this pandemic has also brought with it a forced economic recession that may be the worst our nation has ever experienced since its Independence in 1983.
In just four short months this pandemic has dramatically changed the way we live and work in our society: from quarantines to 24-hour lockdowns; to home-based work; to remote learning; to physical distancing; and to cancelled entertainment and sporting events. Of all these effects, the worst has been the very serious impact and the toll that this crisis has taken on our nation’s workers.
The closure of all ports-of-entry and disruptions in global supply chains have had a devastating impact on our nation’s economy. So many have become unemployed or are receiving no work as a result – from those who are directly connected to our travel and tourism industry such as our hotel workers, taxi drivers, hair-braiders and other hospitality service providers to those young women working in the manufacturing sector. There are also those self-employed in the formal and informal economy as lawyers and event planners, entertainers and DJs, private pre-school teachers, athletes, landscapers, bartenders, barbers and hairdressers. All across the spectrum of our workforce, our people are hurting.
Many in the hotel industry have not received wages and salaries for over two months. Others in the manufacturing sector and non-essential businesses are working on severely reduced hours that can barely meet the daily costs of feeding, clothing and housing their families. Many of our self-employed service providers and small business men and women have seen their sources of income dry up completely.
Today on this Labour Day 2020, our thoughts, prayers and support go out to Workers all across the nation.
Special prayers go out to our healthcare and frontline workers in particular and those who perform essential services. These are our doctors, nurses, hospital orderlies, cleaners and EMT staff, our bank clerks, our customs, SCASPA and immigration officers, police officers and defense force soldiers, sanitation officers, utility and maintenance service providers, our parks and beaches clean-up crews, supermarket staff, small farmers, fisherfolk and the hundreds of others who risk their lives daily to ensure that the basic health, economic, environmental and social rhythms of our country continue seamlessly and harmoniously.
Our country on a regular basis, owes all of you a debt we can never repay, but especially so during this COVID-19 pandemic.
You, our workers, are the true heroes of our nation. It is upon your shoulders that the cross of this pandemic is being borne. This notwithstanding, the COVID-19 has also illuminated the true value of the work that they do and the critical role that our workers play as the ladder upon which our economy will begin to climb again to its previous heights.
Today I want our workers to know that the NextGen SKN St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, which was nurtured from the bosom of the Labour Movement, knows and sees the value of our workers. Today, all across the nation our people are marching-in-place, they are marching “whey dey be” in celebration of our workers!
YOU are truly the heroes of our great Federation as we battle for our survival and YOU deserve that Medal of Honour and Excellence!
So today, I pledge to you, as the Political Leader of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party that, under a NextGen SKN, what you have sown in tears, by the hand of a neglectful, incompetent and uncaring government, you will, one day very, very soon, reap in joy!
We have heard your cries and appeals for assistance!
I give you the assurance that our Party has the plans and ideas that will put our people back to work as swiftly as possible. It is for this very reason that we have established an Economic Recovery Advisory Council that will guide our country back to global competitiveness in the shortest time possible.Our Party in government will also ensure that our workers are compensated for the risks that they have taken during this crisis and for the inordinate burden that they are bearing.
We will introduce new policies and measures that will prepare for a better post-COVID future. And how will we do this?
We shall do so by ensuring that:
Firstly, the environment for our workers is FLEXIBLE enough for workers to thrive, as businesses and industries are disrupted. To this end, we shall
- introduce flexi-hours for civil servants;
- provide financial assistance through a form of Unemployment Insurance provided by a revamped Severance Fund;
- provide loans and grants to small businesses to preserve employment and help them stay afloat;
- provide temporary payroll and other forms of support to allow small businesses to recover and assist large companies experiencing economic difficulties to fully re-engage workers who have been laid off or who have had their hours shortened.
Secondly, the environment must be FAIR enough through a phased increase in the Minimum Wage taking into consideration the interests of both workers and employers. We shall also increase salaries and wages for our Public Servants in anticipation of the boom in productivity as our people return to work with fresh energy and enhanced credentials.
Thirdly, the environment must be FUTURE-READY enough by providing support to entrepreneurs who create jobs while investing in our people and local companies and small businesses through training and incentives that will boost their confidence to seize opportunities, take risks and innovate.
Our NextGen SKN Labour Party will ensure that the 2020 Global Health Crisis marks a positive turning point in the progress towards shaping a better normal for our workers. Today, our Party stands in solidarity and cooperation with our workers. Together we will build a future of work that tackles the injustices that this pandemic has highlighted and that will respond to the challenges of climate, digital and demographic changes.
Before I close, I want to pause a moment to honour the fallen heroes of not only the Labour Movement, but also those who are our National Heroes and Independence National Honorees and Awardees who worked tirelessly to bring dignity, honour and fairness to workers and our nationals generally here in our Federation. It is to their unwavering dedication and perseverance that the struggle for better working conditions, compensation and dignity for our people were won! It was by their sacrifice that our workers and employees in general, achieved Severance Pay, Minimum Wage, 8-hour work day and 40-hour work week in both the public and private sectors.
It is also through their activism, that the dreams and aspirations of a downtrodden people were taken into the political arena, and through the exercise of legislative power were able to create the changes that led to the humanization, social and economic advancement and prosperity of our people.It is because of these stalwart leaders and others that the NextGenSKN Labour Party can stand today, 87 years later, and declare that St. Kitts and Nevis is the House that LABOUR built!
Our Party has been behind of, in front of and a part of every major economic and social policy that has revolutionized our country! We have the track record of crisis management that has steered the Ship of State successfully through turbulent waters time and time again. So rest assured, the NextGenSKN Labour Party will successfully navigate our country through the worst effects of this present challenge. WE SHALL ensure that our great Federation will emerge on the other side of this crisis STRONGER AND BETTER THAN EVER! We have done it before and we shall DO IT AGAIN!
Today, let us join hands in solidarity with Workers all across the nation knowing that our country cannot rebuild and recover without the hard work of our workers. Before we can reap the reward there must be Labour. In order to harvest our dreams, our people must ELECT LABOUR!
Today, let us March-in-place, “March whey you be”, MARCH ONWARDS to VICTORY! ONWARDS to the joyous daybreak of a prosperous future filled with Hope, Opportunity and Success for ALL Our People!
In spite of the State of Emergency, Happy Labour Day!
In spite of the State of Emergency, LONG LIVE the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party!
In spite of the State of Emergency, LONG LIVE the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union!