Tue | Sep 25, 2018

The real meaning of Labour Day

Published:Monday | May 25, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Donna Howell, JN fund manager, puts a golden touch of paint on the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre in St Andrew as part of Labour Day activities last year.

As the nation goes through the motions of Labour Day and what it currently represents, there are many Jamaicans who are unaware of how it came to be and somewhat disconnected from its true meaning and purpose.

Before 1961, May 24 was celebrated in Jamaica as Empire Day in honour of the birthday of Queen Victoria and her emancipation of slaves in Jamaica. In 1961, Jamaican Chief Minister Norman Washington Manley proposed the replacement of Empire Day with Labour Day, a celebration in commemoration of May 23, 1938, when Alexander Bustamante led a labour rebellion leading to Jamaican Independence. The 'labour' here has nothing to do with a political party, instead it speaks of the hard work and those who worked to the point of personal sacrifices to see the nation achieve Independence, growth and development.

Until May 23, 1971, Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley promoted Labour Day as a showcase for the importance of labour to the development of Jamaica, and a day of voluntary community participation to beneficial projects. Since then, Labour Day has been not only a public holiday but also a day of mass community involvement around the country.

Many may not be aware of this background because civics and Jamaican history has been kicked out of the Jamaican school system, and if our youth don't know where we are coming from then they won't know where they are headed.


time of reflection


Labour Day is more than a weekend celebration. We should use this Labour Day as a time of reflection to recognise and evaluate where we are coming from as a nation, where we are now in terms of true national growth and where we are headed as a country.

How can we talk about 'focus on children' when abortion is being presented as an alternative? How can we focus on children when the nation's leaders cannot even make a decision on its own, following the policies that others are pushing? How can we focus on children when we are not even leaving an inheritance for them, divesting everything in sight? How can we focus on children when the family values have eroded so significantly, particularly through anti-family economic policies? The family, which is the first line of government, has been sorely neglected by both parties.

I am not against children and the development of our children and youth. Quite the opposite. I am in support of anything we can do to develop our children and youth. But we can't effectively develop them without a proper foundation being put in place to support what we need to do for them.

Jamaica's minister of youth and culture had the perfect opportunity to make an invaluable contribution to the development of our children and young people had she, for example, worked in collaboration with the minister of education and have the schools islandwide engage in Labour Day projects for public display, that showed the history of Labour Day, the importance of the work of those before us who contributed to Jamaica's history and the positive changes, and also get their ideas on how they think the nation can move forward.

God is looking for leaders - both political and otherwise - who are willing to enquire of His will for the nation. It is God's will for a third political party that is vibrant, willing to unite people beyond tribalism. The nation has been kept in tribal politics for so long that it has become almost cultural.

Meanwhile, other nations laugh at Jamaica and dictate to Jamaica that is their way or no way at all - and Jamaica has to simply accept that. That is unacceptable. It is not God's will for Jamaica to depend on any other country as a way out, but to instead develop a blueprint from among the people to be the next financial hub or place for family.

It is not God's will for the children to be slaughtered, because of the decisions of the leaders in every category, while they use it to score political points. It is not God's will for the nation to join the Caribbean Court of Justice as the highest court of appeal, when we don't even have justice within the local justice system. Stay with England and fix our justice system.

It is God's will to have a Constitution for the people with checks and balances and separation of powers.

It is not God's will for the nation to divest everything, including our beaches, but instead to create opportunities through health, educational and agricultural infrastructure, as well as tourism.

God has given the nation everything to create jobs locally, and not for us to depend on any country to be their saviour.

- Steve Lyston is a biblical economics consultant and author of several books, including 'End Time Finance' and The New Millionaire.'