Phillips defends workers' rights in heroes day message
Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips has charged the country to defend the rights of workers as the nation reflects on National Heroes Day.
Phillips, in his National Heroes Day message, argued that many of the hard-won rights and benefits gained for workers are at risk.
He said that progress and prosperity must include everyone, most importantly workers.
Phillips' message to Jamaicans:
* This year’s celebration of National Heroes Day coincides with the 80th anniversary of the 1938 Labour Rebellion. In that year, two of our national heroes, The Rt. Excellent Norman Manley and The Rt. Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante provided the leadership for the Jamaican people, which helped win social, and political rights that were denied for a century following emancipation.These included ultimately, the right to vote, the rights of workers, and ALL the other rights such as freedom of speech, and association which are today enshrined in our Constitutional Charter of Rights.One of the most important of these rights was the right of workers to organise through their trade unions. This provided the foundation to win many more significant rights and benefits for our workers in subsequent decades.
* Today, many of these hard-won rights, and benefits are at risk. Both Bustamante and Norman Manley would have vigorously protested today’s widespread practice, of calling full-time workers independent contractors, thus depriving them of many of their benefits such as pension rights, maternity rights, and sick leave, among others, which were won over the years through the collective bargaining process. So, as we recognise, and celebrate the achievements of our national heroes, let us commit ourselves to ensuring that the gains secured for the workers are protected.
* We also must remember that effective nationhood and nation building must be inclusive of all Jamaicans. Progress and Prosperity must include everyone, most importantly our workers. We must remember too, the importance of volunteerism in nation building.
* All across the country it is the ordinary Jamaican continuing to give service in their neighbourhood watch, their youth club, their citizen's associations, and community centres or helping the indigent, and the elderly that keep our nation together. They are the ones who ensure that as best as possible, we don’t leave any Jamaican behind in our quest for progress.
* We urgently need a renewal of that spirit of volunteerism that expanded educational opportunities for our people and which provided the foundation for the community building efforts of Jamaica Welfare in the 1930s. Ideally, each and every Jamaican should be a part of their own community development process and should be a beneficiary of the progress of the nation.