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LETTER OF THE DAY - Jamaica's labour force undervalued, undermined

Published:Tuesday | May 22, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Orville Taylor's 'Workers' 'Weak' - 50 years of betrayal' (Sunday Gleaner, May 20, 2012) is not just a useful brief history, but a much-needed warning as successive governments use the International Monetary Fund as an excuse to make the workers pay for the problems caused by local and global finance capitalists.

Extending workers' rights and improving their pay in absolute (real) terms, and also relatively, must be part of Jamaica's next 50 years. Without this, workers will not feel secure, or valued, and will not deliver on that much-needed increase in productivity. That's unless one is determinedly right-wing, insisting that only the stick can work, not the carrot.

Paying workers poorly and denying them (especially security guards) basic labour rights also undermine productivity, because employers will continue to prefer cheap labour to more efficient mechanisation. Of course, this can be a threat to jobs, which, like labour rights, will be 'rightly' opposed by workers' representatives. I say 'rightly, because the mechanisms to provide alternative incomes for those displaced (as in the sugar industry) are lacking. Redundancy pay helps in this situation, but only to some extent.

Seeking economic justice

The national minimum wage needs to be raised each year by well above the rate of increase in national earnings, so that the discouraging and widening gap between the haves and have-nots is addressed.

Without this basic economic justice of decent pay for a hard day's work, we shall not progress. The days of the stick, or the whip, must be put firmly behind us, for reasons well explained by Eric Williams in his Capitalism and Slavery.

I do hope the current People's National Party administration doesn't go back on two recent Jamaica Labour Party worker innovations: better access to health services and less-expensive access to education for their children.

PAUL WARD

pgward@cwjamaica.com

Kingston 7