Hope for a better Labour Day

Thursday, May 22, 2014

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IN 1972 when then Prime Minister Michael Manley called the nation to voluntary service on Labour Day, he pulled off one of the most memorable mass mobilisation feats in this country's history.

Probably the overwhelming response to Mr Manley's appeal was rooted in the wave of popularity that had swept the charismatic politician and his People's National Party to State power in February that year.

Or maybe Jamaicans, having just elected a new Government, were imbued with a renewed sense of nationalism rooted in the hope for a better future.

Whatever the reason for the outpouring of support, Labour Day, over many years, saw hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans engaging in the type of voluntary community action that made the country proud.

Vital infrastructure were either built, repaired or refurbished; special attention was given to the less fortunate; and Jamaicans felt that their efforts were appreciated by the State, as well as the communities that benefited from their volunteerism.

Since the Manley initiative, successive governments have sought to keep that spirit of Labour Day alive, giving much attention in particular to the National Project.

However, in recent years some people have argued that the zeal associated with volunteerism on Labour Day died with the passing of Mr Manley in March 1997.

Some of us may regard that view as a bit of an overstatement. However, if we are to be truthful, we cannot deny that enthusiasm to demonstrate the importance of labour to the country's development seems to have waned in recent times.

True, there are still many individuals who have remained faithful to the ideal of giving service on Labour Day. However, the sort of mass participation that we saw in the 1970s has given way, in some instances, to recreational activities.

In previous years, the Labour Day Secretariat would, by yesterday, have given the country a count of the projects registered for today. Instead, what we got from the Government information agency yesterday was that several organisations and individuals have registered projects so far and the secretariat was pleased.

We don't expect, at this time, that the number of individuals who will be putting work into Labour Day today will swell to the numbers the country saw in the 1970s. However, we hope that the secretariat will be able to use this year's participation to motivate more Jamaicans to get involved next year and beyond.

Our heartiest congratulations to the National Labour Day Planning Committee for selecting 15 police stations across the island as parish projects.

These stations, we are told, are in dire need of repairs. Outside of the need for improvement of the facilities, we believe the planning committee should also be commended for using Labour Day to help improve relations between the police and communities. If ever there was a time when that was needed, it's now.

Here's hoping Jamaica will benefit from a day of labour with love.




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