In the words of A. Philip Randolph, “Freedom is never granted; it is won. Justice is never given; it is exacted.”
History has clearly shown that the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union has been and continue to be a very important part of the St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Movement since the 1930s.
However, the relationship between the Union and employers has often been contentious but the truth is, the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union has played and continue to play an important role in the way employers and workers function together to create a harmonious workplace.
In our previous article, we brought to your attention a few functions of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union. However, in today’s article we will also bring to your attention a few principal purposes of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union which are to:
1. Negotiate salaries/wages and working conditions terms.
2. Regulate relations between its members and the employers.
3. To take collective action to enforce the agreed terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
4. Raise new demands on behalf of its members
5. Help settle their grievances between them and their employer and between member and member as well.
Nonetheless, let us now continue from where we left off in our previous article by looking at representation at the workplace.
Ever since its inception the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union has and continue up to today to provide good and solid leadership and representation for a worker or a group of workers in any dispute with his/her employer
Moreover, the worker or group of workers is less at a disadvantage because of the solidarity and strength that the Union possesses through its membership.
We shall now move on by looking at the protection from exploitation.
I am pretty sure that most if not all persons living in St. Kitts and Nevis is quite knowledgeable of the history of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union and its struggle to protect not only its members but all workers from exploitation by the employer with respect to salaries/wages, working hours, illness and injury at the workplace, discrimination and victimization, as well as in other areas of their employment.
Let us now turn our full and undivided attention to safety and health.
The history books have recorded the grit, courage and determination of the then leadership of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union from as early as the year 1918 when they began their fight against poor and unhealthy conditions, deplorable housing conditions just to name a few.
Thus, back then the leadership of the Union along with a few public spirited people fully understood that the fight to protect the safety and health of the working class people had to be a continuous fight that they were prepared to defend at all cost.
However, today’s present leaders of the Union also understand the fight and have resolved to continue the fight for better working environment for all workers right here in our very beautiful Federation of Saint Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis.
In addition, the leadership of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union also seeks to ensure that Occupation Safety and Health (OSH) Standards as laid down by the International Labour Organization (ILO) are met at factories, offices and other work places right here in our very beautiful Federation of Saint Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis.
Therefore, please keep in mind that the leadership of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union will never ease up on its responsibilities of looking after the safety and health of its members and by extension all workers.
Let us now look briefly at the personal development of all workers. The leadership of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union continues to provide opportunities for individual workers, such as:-
1. Through involvement in the organizational structure of the Union itself
2. Through the provision of lectures, seminars, and other educational courses for its membership and by extension other workers as well, because we fully believe in the educational advancement of the entire workforce.
We will now move on by looking at the legal services that the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union help to provide its membership.
The constitution of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union clearly states that the Union will help to provide legal advice and legal assistance to its membership involved in litigation related to work situation at much lower cost than would normally be obtained by its members.
Finally, let us now turn our attention to other support services. The St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union has, and continue to provide other services, such as Cooperative, Credit Union, Day Care Center, Tutorial Classes as and when the demands arises.
However, in order to become a member of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union, you pay an Entrance Fee of $10. 00 and $5. 00 Weekly Dues. In fact, when it comes to adjusting the Entrance Fee and the Weekly Dues it falls within the ambit of the Delegates at any Annual Conference, because they are the highest authority within the structure of the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union.
Thus, you can become a member by contacting a Union representative at your workplace, if the Union is recognized there, a field officer, the Secretary of the Section in your Area, if you live outside Basseterre or call directly at the Union Headquarters at “Masses House” for enrolment.
Please note that the contact numbers are: Tel: (869) 465-2229 – Email: [email protected] – Fax: (869) 466-9866.
As time is of the utmost importance, we will have to stop here for today, but will continue in a future article when we look at the question that has been asked by some potential Union members. The question is, “What Do Trade Unions Do?
As I take my leave for today, I leave you with a quote by Walter Reuther, and a song by Josh Ann Yasol.
“There is no greater calling than to serve your Brother. And, no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.” – Walter Reuther.
For A Better Tomorrow
By: Josh Ann Yasol.
The sound of the machines are crying,
Each crank gives off a horrible screech,
Overused and worn out with exhaustion,
Sweat dripping down their faces,
Never ending ache from overworking,
Not enough hours in the day to meet the demands,
16 hour shifts with barely any pay,
Just when all hope was lost.
One after another,
Declaring their injustices,
Demanding better privileges,
Noble protest of the (Americans) Kittitians and Nevisians,
Glorious fight for civil rights,
But with advances come obstacles,
State troops shooting,
Killing some, injuring many,
But with time success finally came,
After many trial and errors,
Progress peeked through.