Basseterre, St. Kitts — On the occasion of the first Labour Day celebrations in St. Kitts and Nevis with a Government of National Unity in place, Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris has reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to improving the lives of workers and their families.
The Prime Minister said, “since coming to office just under 3 months ago, we have demonstrated our commitment to raising the living standard of workers in this country. We removed the value added tax (VAT) from all food and medicine, essentials that consume a greater proportion of the income of our working class, and we secured a $16 million grant from Venezuela to make a long overdue payment to former sugar workers following the 2005 closure of the industry.
Dr. Harris also spoke to the decision taken to provide $10 million financial support to the people of Nevis. “My administration will forever uphold human and labour rights and social justice as cornerstone principals of democracy, peace and prosperity. And we must ensure that at all times our people get their fair share of the wealth that is generated in this country. That is why it was important to demonstrate [very early] to the workers and people of our sister island of Nevis that there is not only a new Sheriff, but a new Federal administration in town to ensure that the difficulties workers endured [hitherto] will no longer be part of their experience”, said the Prime Minister. He went on, “putting more money in the hands and pockets of workers in St. Kitts and in Nevis is good for the country. For when workers have more money to spend businesses will succeed and when businesses succeed there is greater economic growth and job creation.”
Labour Day is held annually in St. Kitts and Nevis on the first Monday in May as part of international recognition of the struggles and sacrifices made to improve the working and living conditions of workers. “We associate ourselves with the fight of workers for justice and fairness. I give the assurance to workers and employers that this government will work every day to promote consensus building and harmonious industrial relations so that at the end of the day everyone benefits”, said Dr. Harris.
In speaking on a matter of policy the Prime Minister said, “my administration will address the issues of worker safety and health everywhere, be it at the Basseterre High School (BHS) or the JNF Hospital, as policy priorities. We will ensure that no worker, no one will be forced to choose between their income and their health…that will not happen on my watch.”
The Prime Minister commented on new initiatives being undertaken by his administration to improve working conditions in several sectors. “When we assumed office we started in earnest to address not only the notorious environmental issues at the BHS but long-standing health and safety issues at other government institutions. We have also recently asked the local Medical Association to assist government in a comprehensive review of the health care system with the aim of improving the delivery of institution based health services.”
Dr. Harris spoke to the need for a collaborative, tripartite approach to creating a new environment for workers to advance socially and economically. “I call on all workers’ organisations and employers to work with government to do what is right for workers. Let us set aside the historical biases that perhaps would have prevented us working together for the good of all. Let us strengthen the dialogue on work-related issues and always advance the principle that decent economic and working conditions create lasting peace, progress and prosperity for every man, woman and child of our Federation.”
The Prime Minister ended by saying, “we are committed to good governance; to promoting workers rights; to encouraging decent employment opportunities for all; to expanding social justice. This government of national unity will create a better St. Kitts and Nevis for workers and families. We will be resolute in promoting a fair share, progress and prosperity for all the people of this country. And on that agenda, we will continue working for you.”