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Jamaicans should pay homage to those who fought for the rights of workers — Grange

Monday, May 21, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange, says Jamaicans should pay homage to the Jamaican martyrs who advocated for the rights of workers.

She was speaking at the National Workers' Week and Labour Day Thanksgiving Church Service, held on yesterday at the Portmore Holiness Christian Church in St Catherine under the theme 'Ramp it up... Fix it up'.

The minister noted that this year marks the 80th anniversary since the start of the movement for improved working conditions in Jamaica.

“It took tremendous fortitude to get us to this point... Just imagine what our forebears faced as they struggled for equality and basic rights under a system that was designed to extract and utilise their skills without reasonable returns,” Grange said.

“We pay homage to the great men and women who led strikes and civil unrests across the country demanding better wages,” she added.

The minister pointed out that the 1938 Frome Riot in Westmoreland was the most outstanding civil unrest and strike by workers for better wages and working conditions. She praised the work of Jamaica's first Prime Minister and National Hero, Sir Alexander Bustamante, and other persons who campaigned for workers' rights.

“Thanks to the work of Sir Alexander Bustamante and others, we have a plethora of trade unions that safeguard the rights of workers and ensure that pay and working conditions are at acceptable levels,” she emphasised.

While 1938 stood out as the start of the Labour movement, Grange said that Jamaicans should never forget the determination of Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle, Tacky and others “who rose up against forced labour and helped future generations to see that inequity in the workplace is unacceptable”.

Grange said she feels extremely proud to have led the charge in passing a Bill in Parliament absolving national heroes Samuel Sharpe, George William Gordon, Paul Bogle and Marcus Garvey from criminal liability for the actions they took in the quest for a fair and more just society.

“Their names have been cleared, and we stand proudly to recognise them,” she said.

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