Brothers and Sisters,
A few years ago, my message to you was entitled, “ LEST WE FORGET”. In that message I called upon us to NOT FORGET, May Day, which is celebrated every year as, “International Workers’ Day, meaning that it is a Universal Day of Work stoppage.
Today, I look back at the most powerful expression of a movement which occurred at the first International Workers Congress in 1889. At that Congress four hundred (400) delegates who were in attendance decided that the eight-hour day would be the first demand on their agenda. I note the determination of the delegates as they worked together to achieve their goals. In the end, they succeeded. I say this to inform us of the fact that a Trade Union Congress is very important for the achievement of a better working environment for any people and nation, but more importantly, the “power of agreement”.
Throughout the years, trade Unions around the world have been working together to achieve major advances in workers’ rights. They have demonstrated successes through strength of unity. With the application of a similar approach to cooperation, collaboration or even alliance, Trade Unions in Dominica could deliver results that would have a lasting impact on the lives of Dominican workers and their families. There is much more to be gained out of unity as opposed to isolation. The benefits would accrue to the workers and that is the ultimate goal of unions established to serve the people. Let us embrace the “strength in unity.
Many years ago, I sat in meetings with Anthony Frederick Joseph, the first General Secretary, and founder of the Dominica Amalgamated Workers Union, on the topic – A Trade Union Congress. Today, we are at the same juncture, as the past, with still no agreement to a TUC. Recently three (3) of us (Union Leaders), met on two separate occasions to discuss the TUC, and have been able to agree on some matters, like the Agency Shop Ordinance, Redundancy payment and the ceiling, Subvention to the Labour Movement, as well as appointments to Chairman’s Panel. Despite these agreements, we are still not ready to form a TUC. This Union acknowledges that we need to do more, and I call on my fellow Union Leaders to give the TUC priority.
May Day celebrations in addition to other key activities, consultations and initiatives that can be undertaken jointly are lacking due to an absence of the TUC. For instance, there have been lost opportunities for joint Union response and action to Government’s request on consultations and solicitations on matters of Labour, and policies that would affect the Nation in general. These lost opportunities seriously demonstrate the need for a TUC.
Having said this, I believe that the time has come for the Trade Union Movement in Dominica to “re-strategize and restructure”. With the decline of serious activities over the past years, it is possible to conclude that we have lost ground, or even stopped in time.
Some of the successes of prior years were linked to the vibrancy of the trade union movement. I recall the years that we met at the Windsor Park, spending the day, listening to speech after speech from invitees and locals holding placards, shouting chants and singing songs. In the Caribbean we are now enjoying the results of these efforts, including the Collective Labour Agreement and ILO Conventions and the Decent Work mandate. Having achieved these milestones, it is important to NOT FORGET the significance of the May Day celebrations in honour of the work done and lives lost to get us where we are today. The Trade Union Leaders and Workers, in Dominica need to continue to appreciate the significance of this DAY and not allow it to pass unrecognized. A “re-strategize and restructured” labour union system with a TUC would allow for more action on May Day.
The Workers and Employers in Dominica now have Collective Labour Agreements to operate by, making it very easy for both parties to enjoy not only the forty (40) hours work week, but many other benefits. The Unions have good mandates for their members, and throughout the year, not only May Day, the Unions continue to look after the needs of their members. However, there should be an alliance among the Unions and without the TUC, some Employers take advantage of workers, violating the Collective Labour Agreements, and many times renege on promises made.
In honour of May Day and in light of some of the examples highlighted above, the Dominica Amalgamated Workers Union will arrange to speak with the “workers”, on Non Communicable Disease (NCD’s), from a Bible based perspective. This topic will biblically explain how the Spirit Soul and Body operates as one, and by extension maintain good health, success and prosperity.
The Workers will be informed of the date and time of the event.
Elias Leah Shillingford
DAWU – General Secretary, Ag