BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, October 31, 2023 (MMS-SKN) -- Former General Secretary of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), Mr Asokore Beckles, is of the opinion that St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union’s commitment to advancing the interests of workers is a beacon of hope for the entire Caribbean community.
“Friends, the 21st century brings many new challenges and opportunities for the workforce,” said Mr Beckles. “Rapid technological advancements, evolving industries, and the impacts of global events all converge to shape a new world of work. Within this context, we gather today acutely aware of the need to fortify the foundations of worker protections.”
Mr Beckles made the remarks on Sunday October 29, when he addressed the 84th Annual Conference of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union as its Guest Speaker. The conference was held under the theme ‘Protecting the Common Interests of Workers’. He was introduced to the conference by Union Member Mr Kevion Hodge.
The Guest Speaker pointed out that workers’ welfare and rights lie at the heart of a thriving and equitable society, and noted their collective duty as a Trade and Labour Union is to ensure that everyone contributing their skills and dedication to the economy is met with fair treatment, security, and the opportunity to grow.
“I must extend my gratitude to the union executive and committee organisers whose meticulous planning and dedication have made this event possible,” he said. “Your commitment to advancing the interests of workers is a beacon of hope for the entire Caribbean community.”
According to Mr Beckles, the 21st century demands a paradigm shift - a recalibration of their understanding of work, its place in their lives, and the rights and dignity due to those who labour. He stressed that as members of the Union they should endeavour to have an unwavering commitment to fair wages, safe working conditions, and an environment that nurtures rather than exploits.
He noted that the day’s gathering was not a mere conference but one of ideas, a forge for collaboration, and a forum for dynamic discourse where they take the first step towards shaping a future where workers are not mere cogs in a machine but valued contributors to progress.
“Let us, in unity, forge a future where every worker labours in dignity, safety, and equity,” Mr Beckles called on his St. Kitts and Nevis colleagues whose theme was ‘Protecting the Common Interests of Workers’. “Trade unions in the Caribbean have been instrumental in advocating for workers’ rights, ensuring they get a fair share or the economic pie. We play a vital role in negotiating wages, ensuring that earnings keep pace with the cost of living and reflect the value.”
Unions, said the former General Secretary of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), have been at the forefront of discussions with governments and businesses, pushing for Minimum Wage Legislation, Equal Pay for Equal Work and Collective Bargaining. Indeed among those in the audience was former Trade Unionist, Ambassador Sam Condor, who is now the Chairman of the Minimum Wage Task Force in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Trade unions, he added, work closely with organisations, drawing attention to local issues on global platforms and learning from international best practices, noting that their efforts often lead to policy changes, corporate accountability, and a more equitable distribution of wealth.
“We face the universal challenge of economic inequality, and trade unions play an indispensable role in this fight,” said Mr Beckles. “By championing fair wages and workers’ rights, unions like the St. Kitts and Nevis Trades and Labour Union ensure justice for workers and pave the way for a more equitable, prosperous, and stable society.”
Further defining the role of Trade Unions, the Guest Speaker said that they fight for Decent Working Conditions, Fair Compensation, Freedom from Discrimination, and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. According to him, even today, countless workers regionally endure substandard and sometimes dangerous working conditions. The fight for cleaner, safer, and more humane work environments is relentless and on-going.
“The St. Kitts and Nevis Trades and Labour Union and other regional unions are not powerless while facing significant challenges due to climate change,” said Mr Beckles in reference to the challenges being faced by Caribbean countries as a result of climate change. “By advocating for robust climate action, ensuring worker protection, and facilitating a transition to a greener economy, trade unions can help chart a sustainable path forward.”
While acknowledging the significance of the gathering, at the opening of his address, Mr Beckles said that he was compelled to recognise the invaluable presence of government officials, who were led by Prime Minister of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Hon Terrance Drew, whom he told: “Your dedication to the welfare and progress of the workforce in commendable, and we look to your guidance in steering policies that foster prosperity for all.”
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