YET another May Day comes around and the obvious question arises as to whether the day serves any specific purpose in Saint Lucia, even among those fortunate to have a job. For many years now, the day has been one for which many look forward to without even paying special attention to its significance.
But May Day is important nonetheless as it should remind us to pause and reflect on the many strides and challenges that workers the world over have had to overcome to make the working environment as comfortable and rewarding a place to be in. That critical aspect of the day is so essential that trade unionists have for decades endeavoured to champion the rights of workers who sometimes do not even know let alone enjoy the rights to which they are entitled.
The day should also mean much to women who have continued to break glass ceilings that have seen them being restricted from some boardrooms and working tirelessly for unfair pay while their male counterparts were paid higher whether or not they were adequately qualified or deserving of such positions. With women being the backbone of many Saint Lucian households, it stands to reason that without their courageous strides, many households would face the brunt of economic malaise.
This May Day should also find those Saint Lucians who are employed to not take that privilege for granted. Quite often, the motivation seems to simply gain employment; however, employers – especially in these trying times – are doing as much as they can to curb expenditure while expecting the very best from their workforce so that they remain afloat. This should in no way, however, give employers carte blanche to exploit their workers, many of whom feel forced to acquiesce to unfair and illegal demands.
With national unemployment estimated to be around 23%, this May Day should also take on greater significance for the policymakers now on the cusp of planning the nation’s economic outlook for the next few years. With the Treasury repeatedly being described as being empty, there is no allowance for wastages and error when dealing with the people’s finances. Government must not only profess to be prudent but must also demonstrate that quality at every turn and in an accountable and transparent way.
Quite apart from being a day of rest for those who would have that luxury on Monday, this May Day should be one that causes workers to demand more from their trade unions as well as find out what other roles they should be playing apart from simply being bargaining agents. The days of organizing group meetings, where pertinent issues such as workers’ rights were discussed, needs to become the norm again.
If May Day simply becomes a day for which holiday pay is paid and a lack of interest in what the day truly means, then the true spirit of why it actually came about runs the risk of becoming secondary to money as opposed to meaning.
Enjoy a safe and reflective May Day, Saint Lucians.