By Caribbean News Global contributor
BASSETERRE, St Kitts – National political leader of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP), Dr Denzil Douglas in his address to mark Labour Day, [Monday]; acknowledged all workers as “the true heroes of our great Federation as we battle for our survival, reiterated that the environment must be fair enough through a phased increase in a minimum wage taking into consideration the interests of both workers and employers.”
In a mid-day national presentation, hours before the end of a 72-hour lockdown, the former prime minister acknowledged that Labour Day 2020 is like no other.
Dr Douglas noted that in just four short months COVID-19 “has dramatically changed the way we live and work in our society: from quarantines to 24-hour and 72-hour lockdowns; to home-based work; remote learning; to physical distancing and cancelled entertainment and sporting events.”
He pointed out the very serious impact and the toll this crisis has taken on workers, with the closure of all ports-of-entry and disruptions in global supply chains – have had a devastating impact on the national economy.
“Our country owes all of you a debt we can never repay, but especially so during this COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Douglas who deemed workers as “the true heroes of our nation and proposed several measures the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party will introduce to jump-start the economy and put people back to work to feed their families.”
“So many have become unemployed or are receiving no work as a result – from those who are directly connected to our travel and tourism industry such as our hotel workers, taxi drivers, hair-braiders, vendors, and other hospitality service providers – those young women working in the manufacturing sector. There are also those self-employed in the formal and informal economy as lawyers and event planners, entertainers and DJs, private pre-school teachers, athletes, landscapers, bartenders, barbers, and hairdressers. All across the spectrum of our workforce, our people are hurting,” said Dr Douglas.
“Many in the hotel industry have not received wages and salaries for over two months. Others in the manufacturing sector and non-essential businesses are either not working at all or are severely reduced hours that can barely meet the daily costs of feeding, clothing, and housing their families. Many of our self-employed service providers and small businessmen and women have seen their sources of income dry up completely,” said Dr Douglas.
“The environment must be future-ready enough by providing support to entrepreneurs who create jobs while investing in our people and local companies and small businesses through training and incentives that will boost their confidence to seize opportunities, take risks and innovate. “We will increase wages for our civil servants in anticipation of the boom in productivity as our people return to work with fresh energy and enhanced credentials,” Dr Douglas told workers.
With general elections to be held by August and an anticipated win for his NextGen SKN Labour Party, the federation’s statesman who is also respected regionally and internationally, said the new administration “will ensure that the 2020 global health crisis will mark a positive turning point in the progress towards shaping better normal for our workers.”
He said that on Labour Day 2020, the movement’s thoughts, prayers, and support go out to workers all across the nation with special prayers for healthcare and frontline workers in particular and those who perform essential services.
“These are our doctors, nurses, hospital orderlies, cooks, ward maids, and cleaners and EMT staff; our bank clerks, our customs, SCASPA and immigration officers, police officers and defense force soldiers, sanitation officers, utility and maintenance service providers, our parks and beaches clean-up crews, supermarket staff, small farmers, fisherfolk and the hundreds of others who risk their lives daily to ensure that the basic health, economic, environmental and social rhythms of our country continue seamlessly and harmoniously”, he said.
Reaffirming NextGen SKN Labour Party stance in solidarity and cooperation with workers, Dr Douglas called for togetherness to build a future of work that tackles the injustices of COVID-19 pandemic, affirmed, “we will respond to the challenges of climate, digital and demographic change – together”.