Speech by the Prime Minister

Labour Day Message 2016






My Fellow Jamaicans,

As we mark Labour Day, we recall the heroic and landmark struggles of the Jamaican worker from the cane fields of Frome in Westmoreland to the docks of the Kingston Waterfront.

It was these workers’ struggles that seeded and catalyzed the national movement towards self government and independence, and developed the first truly mass national organization which would later be leveraged as a political base.

Indeed, the government I lead is inextricably linked to the working masses. But these are roots that can be claimed by all of us as Jamaicans, irrespective of political affiliation; for all of us owe a debt of gratitude to our workers.   So it is fitting that we salute our workers and remember the struggles of 1938 which paved the way for modern Jamaica.

The core of the struggle then was about securing reward and respect for labour. This Government believes in your labour, your industry, your enterprise. We believe that if there is an atmosphere of understanding and mutual respect where workers are assured that their efforts will be rewarded then they will produce more. Increased productivity means economic growth. That is why we are reforming the tax system so that the worker is not penalized for working and earning an income. You get to keep more of your rewards from your Labour.  This Government takes a sense of pride on this Labour Day in saying that we have fulfilled our commitment to the working masses and we are confident that you will respond with greater productivity.

As spiritual beings, we labour not always for pay. The apprentice works to learn, the retiree may work to keep the mind and body active, and the volunteer gives of his time and energy to help a neighbour or advance a cause.   If we are not working then we are idle and unproductive; and you know who has use for idle hands.

It is the objective of Government that every able bodied Jamaican should be involved in some form of work; whether it is working for learning,  working for earning, or working for giving. This labour day we celebrate and encourage Jamaicans to work for giving. That is volunteering their labour to help their community or advance a cause.

This year our theme for Labour Day is “For Health’s Sake, Keep it Clean”, focusing on both health and the environment. The two things are closely linked.  We cannot advance the interest of workers if we do not protect and promote their health, as well as the health of their environment.  But it is also in the interest of workers to ensure that where the state resources are unable to fully cover programmes to protect the environment and eliminate health threats that enlightened interest drives the citizen worker to volunteer their time and effort.   We must revive and encourage the spirit of citizen voluntarism. We therefore, urge you to get involved in a Labour Day project today.

Volunteering is not only good for the community, but in so doing we advance our own interests by helping others.  As in the case of our campaign against Zik-V, community action safeguards all of us. This year, three communities in Portmore: Gregory Park, Washington Mews and Christian Pen, will share the National Labour Day Project.  Get involved!  If you are living outside of these communities, find similar projects.  In caring for our environment, we are caring for ourselves. Our environment and the ability to enjoy it through good health is all we have.

The workers of 1938 have bequeathed to us a rich legacy of social activism and voluntarism.  If these workers acted selfishly or simply complained by themselves without taking decisive collective action, where would we be today?   We owe it to this and succeeding generations to recapture that spirit of activism, that spirit of community  action and voluntarism to address common threats.

Fellow Jamaicans, our actions can make a difference.   As the scripture says, “look the fields are white unto harvest” There is work to be done in the vineyards.  If Jamaica is to be prosperous, we all have to work towards it.

I urge you, beyond Labour Day, to carry forward this spirit of voluntarism and service. Get involved in your communities, play an active part in your country as a citizen.  Know that your government is doing more for you.  Now is also the time to do more for your community and your country. Make Jamaica a better place through your labour.

There is dignity in all types of honest work, paid or unpaid.  Let us, on this Labour Day, recommit to the culture of work.  As it has been said, “Work is worship”.  Let us worship not just in words but in deeds.

I wish for you a productive and meaningful labour day. May God bless you and God bless Jamaica, land we love.