The Trinidad Guardian / President Paula-Mae Weekes yesterday called on all citizens to do their part in “forging an environment that is conducive to productivity and development.”
“This begins, of course with our attitudes to work in general. We ought to work while it is day and bring to bear punctuality, conscientiousness and impartiality in the execution of our duties. These matters, if addressed willingly and collaboratively, will produce tangible improvements to our economic environment,” Weekes said in her Labour Day message.
Noting that the day celebrated the events of 1937, when labour leader Uriah ‘Buzz’ Butler led local oilfield workers in a nationwide strike which culminated in the deaths of 14 people and the arrest and detention of dozens more, Weekes said: “Today, we celebrate the workers who stood firmly against oppression and injustice, risking both lives and livelihoods. We remember the appalling circumstances under which our forebears worked and the long struggle to achieve improved working conditions, fair wages and job security. We also recognise present-day workers whose invaluable contribution to the national economy cannot be denied.”
However, she added, “It must also be said that we cannot expect that the strategies and emphases of the 1930s can serve to mitigate the challenges of 2018. Reliance upon outdated ways of thinking does not bode well for accurate representation of the modern-day worker. Instead, it risks stagnation of a movement that has played and must continue to play an integral role in the shaping of our economic and political history.”
She thus urged trade union leaders to align their goals and strategies with the economic and social realities of the present day.
“Unionism must ensure that today’s worker is well-equipped not only with a decent living wage but with opportunities for retraining and further education to deal with a changing local and global environment,” the President said.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley also recognised the work which union leaders of Butler’s time put into the country’s early development.
“Workers make up the majority of our society. Our nation is built upon their hard work, honest toil and dedication,” Rowley said.
“While we all readily acknowledge that most of us as individuals work with the aim to enjoy a better standard of living, we must also recognise that this individual goal is also the national objective being pursued by the Government. Indeed, the micro and the macro objectives are inextricably linked. We want the same thing and the odds of us achieving our goals are greatly improved if we all work together.”
Noting that, Government and labour are not pursuing opposing objectives, Rowley said,”We have indeed come a long way and we certainly still have a challenging journey ahead in light of our formidable economic challenges. However, if we band together with a view to attaining our objectives, underpinned by our common desire for what is right and just, we would undoubtedly increase our chances for success and a better standard of living for us and our children.