United we stand
On September 5, people celebrated Labour Day in the United States of America, Canada and Bermuda. We could be here all day listing the gains for the workers that organised labour has brought forth, but here are just a few:
• Job security
• Maternity leave
• Paternity leave
• Sick pay
• Holiday pay
• Health and safety
• On-the-job training and progression
Suffice it to say, most employers would not have voluntarily given workers these rights.
The whole point of being in business is to make a profit. However, some employers, not all, have historically believed that profits must always come before workers' basic needs and rights; the constant refrain being that any gain given to workers would cost the company money and potentially put them out of business.
Nevertheless, around the world, unions have stood their ground — often at the cost of labour stoppages, general strikes and, yes in the case of the coalminers in the North of England in the 1970s, bloodshed.
Closer to home, less than a century ago, agricultural workers across the Caribbean had to unionise to gain pay that was slightly above “slave” wages. Here in Bermuda, in the 1940s, workers on the United States naval bases endured unfair and unequal pay.
In 1944, this led to the formation of organised labour, initially known as the Bermuda Workers Association. Under the leadership of Edgar Fitzgerald Gordon, PhD.
The BWA later evolved into the Bermuda Industrial Union in 1947.
Just as the business and corporate entities had their political arms to further their aims, every union needed legislation put on the table to make gains for their workers, and the population as a whole. What better way than to form their very own political parties.
Whether it be the British Labour Party, the Australian Labour Party, The St Kitts & Nevis Labour Party or the Progressive Labour Party, there are historic and binding ties between worldwide labour movements and progressive policies that have enhanced the welfare of workers over the past 100 years.
Undeniably, every single worker, whether a union member or not, has benefited directly or indirectly from the relationship between organised labour and labour political parties. Indeed, it has been a winning partnership.
United we stand.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org