BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Friday 30th October 2020)- Held under the theme’ Inspiring Trade Union Growth in the New Normal’, workers’ organization, the St.Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union successfully hosted its 81st Annual Conference on Sunday 25th October which saw many workers in attendance.
The event was conducted at the conference room of the Solid Waste Management Corporation located at Taylor’s Range, Basseterre in an effort to properly observe the COVID-19 safety protocols including physical distancing and hand sanitization.
President Sydney Bridgewater, during his presentation, talked about the activities of the union’s office amidst COVID-19.
“Visits and phone calls to our office by workers keep our organisation focused and driven. We listen to concerns and complaints where, giving advice and acting on their behalf respectively. As you can imagine, during this period of layoffs, business closure and other related areas, our Union has been busy in relation to workers who reach out to us on matters of concerns such as severance pay calculations and the reasons for being laid off.
He continued: “Our Union members have consulted us and so have other workers who know about the role of the Union. I am happy to report today that the function and effectiveness have encouraged those workers who were not among our membership to join the organisation! I am confident and comforted knowing that they were inspired through personal experience to do so in our handling of grievances.
Bridgewater encouraged other workers to be part of the Union’s membership.
“We want, however, others to get onboard in the general sense of having formal representation as a worker! That is our role, to listen to your voice and be your voice!
According to him, the organization intends on engaging the public through specific promotional and educational activities in the near future so as to expand its membership.
In speaking about the rights of workers in the Federation of St.Kitts-Nevis, he commented: “The rights of workers did not ‘poof’ into being. The pages of history feature a long list of notable achievements and also specific movers and shakers who are the narrators of such stories of progress over the years. The scope of the victories of the labour/workers’ movement is local, regional and international. Relative to St.Kitts-Nevis, we can point to the 1935 Buckley’s Riot as one of our pivotal examples for the time period dubbed ‘The Birthplace of Caribbean Democracy.’ Unsatisfied with social and work conditions, history recalls the triumphant efforts of estate labourers during the sugar industry era whereby a strike led to the fight for improved conditions; some of these labourers ended up paying the ultimate sacrifice. Their heroic actions resulted in the priceless accomplishments of the freedom of joining a trade, the minimum wage structure and holiday with pay among other notable accomplishments.”
Fraternal greetings were delivered in person by Political Leader of the St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party and former Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas while immediate Past General Secretary of the Caribbean Congress of Labour Asokore Beckles General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union Toni Moore, President of the Workers Institute for Organized Labour (in St. Martin) Theophilus Thompson did so via video presentations while that of General Secretary of the Antigua-Barbuda Trades and Labour Union Mr. Hugh Joseph was read at the conference.
Bringing remarks from the Ministry of Labour was the Labour Commissioner Ms. Shernel James while well-known educator Dr. Joyelle Clarke was the guest speaker.
More conference coverage details to be provided in a follow-up report.