Some fifty-five years ago, Trinidad and Tobago gained Independence and a quarter century before that on 19 June 1937, the Butler Oilfield Riots took place, influencing our annual commemoration of the labour movement, borne out of the bowels of our sugar plantations and oil fields, where exploitation of labour, poor working conditions and worker abuse ran rampant. On this Labour Day 2017, as we remember and celebrate the strength, tenacity and resilience of visionaries like Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler and Adrian Cola Rienzi, who fought for the disadvantaged and marginalised working class, we must pause to evaluate how, as a society, we can improve the standards of employment and labour relations, both from the perspective of the employer and the worker.
Modern day Trinidad and Tobago has enjoyed the fruits of the labour and struggles of those oilfield workers, as it is the oil industry upon which our economy has historically thrived. The greatest homage we can pay to those workers, their labour leaders and our own fore-parents, is to improve upon their legacy of a work ethic that does not fall short; a genuine work ethic that translates an honest day’s work into an honest day’s pay.
We live in progressive times, where there is at least the recognition that pay discrimination based on gender is unacceptable; where the minimum wage, though yet ideal, is considered not unreasonable; and where trade unions are legislatively recognised, thereby allowing for civilised negotiations, bargaining rights and opposing worker actions. However, as a society, much more needs to be done to improve our labour and industrial practices, in order to attain international benchmark standards required of the employer-employee relationship. Our nation requires, now more than ever, a workforce comprising principled, ethical, dedicated and innovative men and women, who can contribute to raising our productivity levels and national income. Apart from that, a progressive workforce is necessary if we are to achieve, in a desirable time period, developed nation status. To achieve the type of socioeconomic standard of living that is concomitant with our comfort, wealth and access to material goods and necessities, which as Trinbagonians we deserve, we must equally be ready, able and willing to meet international benchmark standards of productivity.
Productivity can only be achieved with genuine collaboration between the workforce and the employer. Indeed, it must be recognised that just as the trade unions have a mandate to safeguard workers’ rights and working conditions, workers themselves owe a duty of diligence to their employers in getting the job done efficiently, effectively and proactively. The holistic relationship between employer and employee must recognize the interdependence of one with the other; a symbiosis that guards against indispensability and tyranny and rather, promotes respect for authority, leadership and the fostering of good relations in the workplace.
I wish the people of this Nation a happy and reflective Labour Day 2017 and urge wisdom in improving our labour and industrial practices. The true strength of this Republic will always be its human resource. As such, as we exercise Discipline, Tolerance and Production in creating a proper, solid work environment, so too must we recognise the value of balancing work with family time to foster happy, productive employees and employers.
May God bless the labour movement of this great Republic, as we look forward to improved relationships among our people, in and out of the workplace.Share