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NWU Addresses

National Workers Union XVI Congress of Delegates

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Workers Union have never really enjoyed a reasonable relationship. While I am not prepared to go into the causes of such a situation over the last twenty-four (24) months, we have, however, witnessed the emergence of a couple of new faces within the body structure and leadership spectrum of that organization. This new initiative has helped the Saint Lucia Employers Federation begin to think differently, and view some national issues beyond petty narrow class interest. As a result, we are prepared to build a bond of industrial relationship with the Saint Lucia Employers Federation.

It is against this background that the NWU’s Central Committee felt convinced that inviting Mr. Henry Phillips, Executive Secretary of the SLEF to address our XVI Congress of Delegates is positive, and would further help consolidate a new path, aimed at social and industrial harmony between our respective organisations. This is indeed a historic development.

As I look through this distinguished gathering of human resource, I noticed that we are graced with the presence and participation of workers employed within the financial services sector of this country. Never in the lifespan and development of the trade union movement in Saint Lucia have we had such an experience. This I consider symbolic.

Comrades, Brothers and Sisters. This XVI Congress of Delegates is meeting at a very crucial period in the history of our social, economic, political, cultural and industrial development. While we welcome and herald the recent passage of labour legislation that makes trade union recognition compulsory, thereby eliminating the traditional confrontational disputes that once characterized the recognition issue, we cannot feel comfortable and secure when we continue to witness job losses in agriculture, tourism, commerce, airline, financial service, construction, public service and garment sectors.

We have all seen the backlash of such vicious industrial injustice. Therefore when we are faced with a 20% 25% unemployment situation, along with some five thousand (5000) children leaving school annually with very little hope for the future, this is almost a national crisis and a bitter prescription for workers to find it impossible to feed their families, pay their loans, monthly mortgages, insurance premiums, home rentals and utility bills.

Comrades, Brothers and Sisters. Some ten (10) years ago Saint Lucia earned as much as ECM$150 a year from banana sales. Over twelve thousand (12,000) farm owners, farm workers and clerical staff were employed in the industry. We earn as little as about ECM$65 per year today, employ about three thousand (3000) farm owners, farm workers and clerical staff. That massive decline is indeed serious and has devastating consequences.

A few years ago the process of purchasing land and real estate was done quietly. Property ownership then changed hands without the knowledge of many Saint Lucians. At this very moment you can drive throughout the length and breadth of this country, especially in some reasonably well kept neighbourhoods and you will discover a proliferation of real estate signs captioned “Land for Sale”, “House for Sale”, “House for Rent”. Trust me, these are all practical and realistic signals being generated from the sluggish performance of the economy. Workers do not have the purchasing power to access some of these deals.

Comrades we are all in pain. That is as a result of a steady decline in banana production and a tremendous short fall in our banana income. In other words, we could have had a 9/11 which could not affect bananas, but with a bigger slice in the banana income we would be better off today. This is no time to rejoice.

Months ago we should have had the most knowledgeable persons in the banana industry around or across the table to help plan our way out of this frustrating economic situation. Comrades, I must point out that the National Workers Union during the period under review has exercised a certain measure of reason in dealing with the banana industry. That approach is reflected in some of the industrial packages previously negotiated. This is a significant contribution to the overall solution in the industry.

Strange enough, you still hear individuals who have no national commitment but their self interest first, wanting to talk down to the trade union movement and even engage in activities that undermine the objectives and aspirations of the movement. That behavior is also displayed at regional and international levels. Unions are even told that they must do things differently.

The recent Japanese financial crash and its discovery, the financial mess in Argentina, the recent mood by employers in Italy, the roll back position being advanced by some employers at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) meetings and conferences, America’s move to protect employees in its Steel Industry against inputs from outside, are enough to suggest that some employers are still bent on having things their way or else!!!

It is therefore not accidental that globalization is being galvanized in its raw and un-regulated form. This trend, if not met with global action by the trade union movement, will be used to destabilise the movement, inflict more poverty and hardship on workers and ultimately further enhance the economic well being of the rich countries.

Comrades it is with that kind of mindset I implore you to work hard, be more efficient, produce more, demand a better share of that production and let us defend out jobs.


Protecting And Defending The Economic, Social, Educational, Cultural And Political Interest Of Workers
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