By Loshaun Dixon
Basseterre, St. Kitts- Thousands of workers took to the streets of Basseterre on Monday Morning to taken part in the annual Labor Day Celebrations.
St Kitts and Nevis and several other Caribbean countries around the globe observed May Day on Monday where workers were celebrated.
In the Federation, the traditional march in Basseterre and rally at the Pasty Allers Playing field.
Speaking at that rally on Monday afternoon Joseph O’Flaherty President St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labor Union stated that non-unionized workers have been disadvantaged for years with some companies even refusing to hire individuals who are union members.
“It is unfortunate, that many workers are not receiving the benefits of the collective bargaining process. In fact, the fall-out of the anti-union campaign has had a damaging effect,” he said.
Mr. O’Flaherty charged that the formation of new unions is non-existent, and those that current association are facing difficulty in establishing collective representation in the workplace.
“Take a look at the Teachers Union and the St. Kitts Nurses Association. These two organizations are not in a position to represent their membership effectively,” he said.
He added that the time has come for unions to meet and discuss a collective path order for workers to be effectively represented across the variety of professions.
“The St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labor Union intends to play a critical role in getting that process started, because in the end, it is all the workers of this country who will benefit,” he said.
O’Flaherty also charged that the consumer in St. Kitts and Nevis have been betrayed by many of the merchants.
“Here is what has happened. The Government removed VAT on foods, medicine and funeral expenses, as they said, to make living a bit easier on your pockets.
“While the improvement was felt for a while, the benefit has significantly been eroded. The unchecked, unregulated merchants were allowed to take what would have been a saving to you and make it into a profit margin for themselves.”
He alleged that merchants have gradually increased their mark-up on goods replacing what was the VAT with their own profit.
“So, you no longer benefit, the government has lost the VAT income, and the merchants level of profit increases on their bank accounts.So you see, you are no longer benefiting, as many merchants are forcing you to pay more, or just as much as before, while their profits get healthier. Think about that.”
Also speaking at the Rally was the Leader of the St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party Dr. Denzil Douglas who commented on the march stating that it has been a march of solidarity.
“This has been a march of solidarity, a march of celebration of 85 years of the St. Kitts and Nevis, but it has also been a march of protest and challenge. Challenge to the policies of a government, the policies of a regime that has trampled on the rights of workers over the last two years,” he said.
Dr. Douglas added that the thousands came out to march in solidarity of the victimization with those who have been the victims.
“We are saying bye bye to victimization bye bye to corruption bye bye to nepotism bye bye to the failed policies of the Timothy Harris regime,” he stated.
He thanked the workers who came out to the march.
“I want to thank you for your solidarity because they thought that over the last two years…that you would not show solidarity today “
The former Prime Minister stated that the hardships in the country are palpable.
“Cost of living too high, you can’t find the basic wages to pay people, people cannot pay their basic utilities compared with the wages they are receiving,” he said.
He further warned that the march was a signal of mobilization for the comrades of Labour.
“We ain’t coming off the street from today and our message will resound throughout the length and breadth of this country as of today,” he said.
He promised to speak to the members of the movement one on one via various forums in and efforts to take back the reins of government.
“That is why throughout the march there was one sounding cry ‘Harris must go,'” he declared.