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PM Anthony Calls for Restoration of the Glory of May Day Celebrations

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005 - A call has been made in Saint Lucia for a more organized approach to Labour Day celebrations. The call came on May 1st, from the country’s Prime Minister Honourable Dr. Kenny Anthony, as Saint Lucia joined several countries to observe May Day.

Delivering his weekly radio address programme ‘Conversation with the Nation,’ Dr. Anthony said that in the past workers eagerly looked forward to May Day celebrations, which featured well-organized rallies, speeches and messages of solidarity.

Over the past decade he noted, May Day celebrations had changed, and were poorly organized. “The unions have not been able to mobilize their members to participate in May Day activities as they used to. Most have been content with organizing poorly-attended rallies at their respective headquarters or other premises. No longer is May Day treated as a day when workers proudly sported their red shirts, dresses, caps and flags and sang the Internationale. Today, sadly, May Day is treated as just another day away from the rigours of the work place,” said Dr. Anthony.

He pointed to several factors as having contributed to the low-keyed observance and lack of interest in May Day celebrations, which has been celebrated world-wide for the past 127 years. Among them are the changing dynamics of the labour force, a view on the part of members to see value in their unions only when they want increases in wages, a lack of ideological anchoring of unions and weak and uninspiring leadership.

Prime Minister Anthony further noted the inability of trade unions to come together under one umbrella to maximize their resources and to cooperate on common issues. “While some unions have shown a preparedness to work together, others have denounced solidarity to reaffirm their identify and narrow individualism. As a former trade union leader myself, I can clearly recall back in those heady days of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the largest and most militant unions formed an Industrial Solidarity Pact to promote their common interests. But no sooner had the immediate objectives of the day been met, coordination decreased and unions went their separate ways.”

He said while the Government would wish to be more involved, any assistance offered to the unions could be misunderstood and interpreted as patronizing. Dr. Anthony noted however, that he has been encouraged by news of the existence of what has been described as the formation of a Trade Union Federation. Such an umbrella body, he said would also help Government to dialogue with the Labour Movement on social and economic issues facing the country.

According to Dr. Anthony, “When all is said and done, it is still my wish that our trade unions would begin to restore the old glory of May Day. We cannot afford to let May Day die. We owe it to those who struggled and died for May Day to ensure that we do not let their sacrifices be in vain.”

In 1999, the Government of Saint Lucia offered the trade unions a parcel of land to establish a headquarters for a Trade Union Congress or Council. Dr. Anthony said the only stipulated condition was that the proposed initiative must have the support of all the unions.

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