Wed | Feb 20, 2019

Ensure that hard-won rights of workers are preserved -professor

Published:Tuesday | May 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Professor Colin A Palmer

Noted historian, Professor Colin A. Palmer, has urged Jamaicans to ensure that the hard-won rights of workers are preserved.

Presenting a public lecture under the theme 'The 1938 Rebellion and the PNP's vision of an independent Jamaica', as part of the 80th anniversary celebrations of the People's National Party last Sunday, Palmer said that Jamaican workers, some 80 years ago, began the process of claiming and reclaiming their right to humanity, nationhood and developing a vision for this island.

He said that the vision, work and leadership of Norman Manley in 1938, during the industrial strike, were monumental in setting the stage for the birth of the most modern political movement of the Anglophone Caribbean.

According to Palmer, Manley envisioned a society that would break with the past and embrace a new normal that would be bereft of self-hatred, racism and dependence.

Describing the post-Emancipation reality as cruel and inhumane, Palmer noted that the former slaves received their freedom with no compensation and nowhere to go.

"To the landless, illiterate and jobless free people, freedom was a cruel joke. They had given the best of their years to the cause of other people. An intense land hunger prevailed," said Palmer. He argued that the arrival of Manley on the scene after the famous worker strike in 1938 was a watershed, as it radically altered the crisis.

In his remarks at the lecture, PNP President Dr Peter Phillips said that the party owed its existence to that blow struck by the workers against the regime in 1938.

He argued that much of what was achieved in the 1930s was being eroded today with the advent of contract work, where employees' rights were being eroded through irregular employment arrangements.

"It is up to us to protect what the workers struggled for. What we are seeing is a threat to collective bargaining principles. A future PNP administration will pass the necessary legislature to ensure that this does not happen," said Phillips.