BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, November 2, 2023 (MMS-SKN) -- The St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union is thanking the Prime Minister of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Hon Dr Terrance Drew and his Cabinet for safely and fully opening the country post-pandemic, a gesture which allowed the majority of workers to return to work.
“At this time, I want to commend the current government, the Comrade Leader Hon Prime Minister Dr Terrance Drew and his Cabinet for safely opening up the country post pandemic which lifted a burden from the country in allowing the majority of workers to resume livelihoods,” said President of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union, Mr Sydney Bridgewater.
The President was delivering remarks at the 84th Annual Conference of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union, which was held under the theme ‘Protecting the Common Interest of Workers’, on Sunday October 29. Chairing the proceedings was First Vice President Mr Curtis Francis, while Guest Speaker was former General Secretary of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), Mr Asokore Beckles.
The Honourable Prime Minister, who is also the Political Leader of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, the Hon Dr Terrance Drew, himself a renowned internal medicine physician, was among the invited guests at the Conference. He later made a presentation where he praised the SKN Trades and Labour Union for representing the workers.
According to the President, the Union still recalls the challenges experienced by workers during the pandemic based on the busy period of frequent visits from workers. Over 50 workers would have come to the Union’s headquarters, Masses House, for help with their grievances.
“They needed questions answered about termination, miscalculation of monies after being laid off, vaccination policies and just to have a listening ear after being treated as disposables after giving years as much as over thirty years of dedicated service,” pointed out Mr Bridgewater, who further stated that even as a member of NEMA’s Voluntary Force, he would get difficulties trying to go around and helping the country.
Earlier Mr Bridgewater led the Conference in observing a one-minute silence in honour of Union stalwarts ‘who have now passed on to the Great Beyond’.
These included Comrade Stanley Franks Jr, former General Secretary and Treasurer; Comrade Rudolph ‘Pa’ Morton Sr., Union Trustee; Captain Errol Maynard, and Comrade Earle Clarke, who were contributors to the Labour Spokesman (Union’s weekly publication) contributors.
“Championing the cause of workers in our Federation is the foundation of what the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union stands for,” said the President. “Built on the pedigree of events like the 1935 Buckley’s Uprising, our country has a rich history in the area of social justice for the betterment of its people and nation, which created a domino-effect in other countries in the region, inspired to agitate for meaningful change.”
In reference to the 2023 Conference’s theme, ‘Protecting the Common Interest of Workers’, Mr Bridgewater said that it was at the core of the Union’s philosophy, alluding that it was the essence of what has kept the organisation on track and relevant for over eight decades.
The Union, the President observed, believes that when it comes to social dialogue, all partners within the scope of workers protection must pool their weight collectively and prioritise the importance of coming together. The Union has its part to play along with all employers, Government, and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
“I wish to call on the Minister of Labour and Employment who sits as the chairperson of the National Tripartite Committee to fully steer the course in the direction under this new administration for the country to finally have its first ever Labour Code Document,” said Mr Bridgewater.
On behalf of the Union, he thanked the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for having helped the country, both at the Labour Department level and at the Union level, to get the draft going. The Union contributed as it relates to getting legal representation.
Members of the Union were called upon to come together in seeking to address the falling away of Labour standards such as Holiday with Pay, overtime Pay and collective bargaining agreement etc. which are the core fundamentals of protecting workers. He lamented that presently there are ‘loopholes’ which are being used to exploit workers of this country.
“I want to encourage workers of the country to unionise,” appealed President Bridgewater in his closing remarks. “Join the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union. The Union makes us strong! By doing so you would most definitely complement efforts of protecting your common interests now and for generations to come!”
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