The late president of the St.Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union Joseph O'Flaherty Jr. (seated center) at the 2018 Union Conference held in October (Spokesman Snap)

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (Friday 10th May 2019)-Known for his vast involvement in labour and industrial relations, longstanding President of the St.Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union (SKNT&LU) Joseph O’flaherty Jr. died earlier this week on Labour Day (International Workers’ Day)-Monday 6th May- which many mourners and admirers have linked to his passion in seeing to the welfare of workers in the Federation.

At age 48, he died during the early morning at the Joseph N. France General Hospital after succumbing to an illness; his death occurring hours before the annual Labour Day March organised by the SKNT&LU in partnership with the sister body the St.Kitts-Nevis Labour Party.

As usual, he had been one of the notable figures at the yearly outing as well as the wreath laying ceremony –held on the eve of the march-at the gravesites of fallen comrades of the Labour movement including his father Joseph Fidel O’Flaherty-who died on 6th February 2003 at the age of 50- and was also a long- serving Trade Unionist as the Assistant General Secretary to Batumba Tak who currently still occupies the General Secretary position.

Hence, O’Flaherty Jr.’s presence was especially felt amidst this year’s occasion.

It is understood that shortly after being hospitalised, the topic of the 2019 Labour Day plans and preparations was brought up by him as his deep interest in workers’ relation affairs remained intact even amidst his health situation.

Seven years ago at the 73rd annual conference of the St.Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union held on Sunday 28th October 2012 under theme ‘Tackling The Challenges of the Future’, O’Flaherty emerged as the newly-elected president, succeeding Clifford Thomas who served in that capacity for a period of seven years and did not seek reelection thereafter.

Before attaining the president post, for three years in a row, O’Flaherty served as Assistant General Secretary to Tak also.

In what would have been his last Labour Day speech in May 2018, O’Flaherty commented: “Today, we marched in solidarity of each other, as we recognise the tremendous value of our individual and collective skills, talents and expertise that contribute to the economic and social advancement of this country and of our families.”

He expressed hope that each individual would have taken some time to reflect on the achievements gained for workers over the years that are very much enjoyed today by every working man and woman.

O’Flaherty went on to say: “It was not always this way. It took the sacrifice of men and women of the Labour Movement, including the Trades and Labour Union, to fight and struggle for the improvement in working and living conditions in this country. The rights of workers that you enjoy today did not happen overnight, rather, the journey was long, requiring steadfast advocacy, sometimes protests, dialogue and some degree of militancy at some points.”

He pointed out then that the history of the struggle of workers in this country is documented.

“The Buckley’s uprising in 1934, right here in St. Kitts, was to have long influences throughout the rest of the Caribbean. Indeed, this country has long been at the forefront of workers’ rights. But of course, in every era, and in a developing modern economy, there are always new challenges for workers, and the St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union continues to work on behalf of its members and workers of this country.

The late top Union official told the gathering of workers about the Union’s constructive dialogue with government and the private sector in “working to forge policies and laws that protect workers in a modern economy while at the same time ensuring that the framework exists to that workers can be productive and globally competitive.”

“Far from it, my fellow workers, the struggle for improved wages, better work conditions, access to training, education and social support, proper skills certification, even housing, that struggle continues and is of great importance to every one of us,” he added.

O’Flaherty invited persons to who are not yet Union members to join the organisation.

“We want you to take serious consideration on becoming a member. Members of the executive will be happy to speak with you about how you benefit and how members can make a difference in all areas of workers endeavour.”

The St.Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union and the management and staff of the Labour Spokesman extends condolences to the family members and friends of the late Joseph O’Flaherty Jr.