Remarks By Senator The Honorable Dion A. Foulkes Minister of Labour National Labour Day Address
My Fellow Bahamians, The Bahamas and the world have been profoundly affected by the global COVID 19 pandemic. The onslaught of the pandemic has brought with it many pressing health and financial challenges which have disrupted the world’s economies including our very own.
COVID-19 has caused the deaths of thousands of people around the globe and it has left thousands more sick and incapacitated. Here at home several persons have unfortunately succumbed to the virus and dozens more have fallen gravely ill. Around the world and here in The Bahamas thousands of persons have found themselves unemployed. In fact the International Labour
Organization (ILO) predicts an estimated 305 million jobs will be lost worldwide by mid year.
It is no doubt that COVID-19 has changed the very essence of our way of life and forced us to do things differently. This year’s annual Sir Randol Fawkes Labour Day Celebrations is one of such national activities that has been severely impacted by COVID-19, as it has forced us to refrain from celebrating in large numbers and in the grandiose style that we have become so accustomed to doing over the years. And while COVID 19 may have forced us to celebrate on a smaller scale this year, one thing for certain is that we will never forget the fundamental reasons why we celebrate the first Friday of June as Labour Day each year.
This year as we celebrate another Labour Day we do so remembering the many contributions and personal sacrifices of our forefathers, freedom fighters and great patriarchs such as Sir Randol Fawkes, in whose honour the Labour Day Celebration is named. Sir Randol and many other labour leaders persevered and fought for the rights and equality of Bahamian workers and all who worked in our beloved country. Sir Randol’s personal commitment to ensure that every Bahamian worker have a better way of life will forever be etched in our country’s history. His vision and passion continues to ignite a deep sense of pride and appreciation in all Bahamians from all walks of life.
This week, both sets of Umbrella Trade Union Organizations have joined forces to celebrate workers and their key contributions to the growth and development of progressive and sustainable labour initiatives in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. I therefore extend best wishes and congratulations to President Obie Ferguson and the executives of the Bahamas Trade Union Congress and President Bernard Evans and the executives of the National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas on the occasion of
your joint Labour Day activities as we celebrate another Sir Randol Fawkes Labour Day.
Ladies and gentlemen, The Bahamas is a resilient nation. We have faced many obstacles and difficult periods in our past and we will overcome this present day challenge. We will rebuild our economy and our nation will be stronger and better than it has ever been. However, it will not be an easy task. It will require the concerted efforts and contributions of all Bahamians and residents, the Government, NGO’s, as well as the public and private sectors organizations all working together as one. But
most important, it is incumbent that we use and pool our resources wisely and we must endeavor to be our brother’s keeper.
Ladies and Gentlemen, my Ministry and the Government have been aggressively working to devise ways to:
• Stimulate the economy,
• Create jobs and protect existing jobs.
• Devising methods and strategies to support current and developing enterprises.
• Open the discussion and dialogue between the Government and key citizenry to find solutions to the many pressing concerns that face our country.
I wish to fully assure you that we are determined that this war against this menace COVID-19 and rising unemployment will be won.
My Fellow Bahamians, we wish to reiterate our pledge and commitment, and also that of my Ministry and the Government to continue to work with the two major umbrella unions, the NCTUB and the CBTUC, and all unions, as well as The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, and all employers to ensure industrial harmony in the workplace and in our country.
The Ministry of Labour has over the past year further developed and expanded a number of programmes and initiatives. Some of these include:
1. The upgrade of the P.C. Recruiter System in the Department of Labour which is operated in conjunction with the Citizen Security & Justice Program.
2. The expansion of the our programme for providing current and future at risk job seekers with the necessary skills to improve their chances of apprenticeship and employment. This is designed to reduce unemployment by improving access to quality jobs.
3. The expansion of the ‘Labour on the Blocks’ Job fairs and the merging of this initiative with the Office of the Prime Minister’s ‘Over the Hill Project.’
I am pleased to report that The National Tripartite Council which serves as a forum for labour and industrial relations in The Bahamas has done significant work over the past year including, but not limited to:
(i) The proposed National Productivity Legislation and the establishment of a National Productivity Council.
(ii) The proposed transferring of the functions of The Bahamas Industrial Tribunal to the Civil Division of the Supreme Court.
(iii) The implementation of the Bahamas’ Second Generation Decent Work Country Programme with the ILO providing $170,000 in Technical Assistance.
(iv) The submission of the Final Report and recommendations on the National Child Labour Policy.
As we prepare to commemorate another ‘Labour Day’ on this Friday 5th June, I wish to commend all workers throughout the length and breadth of The Bahamas for their commitment and dedication to the advancement of our country. I wish to also use this opportunity to personally thank all workers labouring on the frontlines in the midst of this pandemic: nurses, doctors, police and defense force officers, grocery store workers, sanitation workers and many others...We appreciate you. You are our country’s heroes and we salute you for your service and dedication.
Finally, I wish to reflect and remember our beloved fallen four sisters:
a) Tabitha Charlene Haye b) Tami Patrice Gibson c) Dianne Elizabeth Ferguson
d) Kathleen Augusta Fernander
Who tragically lost their lives on Friday, June 1, 2018 as we paraded through the streets during the Sir Randol Fawkes Labour Day Parade. Twenty-four other individuals on that parade were also seriously injured. We will forever remember our brave fallen sisters who were all incredible leaders in their own rite. May their souls rest in peace.
As I conclude, I wish to once again commend both the NCTUB and CBTUC for their efforts to organize this year’s Labour Day Celebrations. To the people of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, I pray that you and your family will have a wonderful ‘Labour Day’ Holiday. May God continue to bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.