As we acknowledge International Workers’ Day 2020, commonly referred to as May Day, we can be sure that this day, May 1, will be remembered as one of the toughest days for workers, as well as for employers, Barbadians generally and the people of the world. We are operating in unprecedented times.
Unions and Governments in Barbados have over time highlighted the importance of the workers’ contribution to gross domestic product through work in the formal and informal sectors, and their contribution to national development generally. Today we do the same and acknowledge the outstanding contribution of workers to nation-building.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the scaling down or temporary closure of many businesses across various industries and sectors, and to challenges for workers and families across Barbados.
Government has taken measures to ensure that the impact on workers and their dependents is cushioned. Appropriate safety nets have been provided whether through the National Insurance Department, social welfare agencies or civil society organizations.
In this “downtime”, technology will be utilized to provide opportunities for workers and laid-off employees to participate in training and retraining, preparing and equipping them to excel in a post-COVID-19 Barbados. Our country must emerge from this pandemic stronger and better equipped to successfully take on the world.
During this period of curfew and shut-down there are many workers on the frontline who every day place themselves in harm’s way and go to their jobs with a determination to keep this country afloat.
These workers are in health care, sanitation, Central Government, retail, agriculture, banking, security and other sectors. There are also many working from home, while at the same time taking care of children and other dependents who are also at home. Civil Society Organizations continue to provide invaluable service to their clients and communities.
In this public health emergency, decisions have to be taken balancing the health, safety and welfare of workers with the economic activity which is necessary to sustain workers.
Our decisions will continue to be people-centred. Collaboration among the social partners, for which Barbados is recognized worldwide, is providing the ideal platform for addressing the current and the anticipated challenges of a world impacted by COVID-19.
Many lessons will be learnt from this novel coronavirus pandemic. There will be new ways of teaching, learning, and working; new ways of doing business and improved ways of communicating; and new ways of adapting technology to develop ourselves and our country.
This pandemic has allowed us to recognize our shared humanity and our interdependence. COVID-19 recognizes neither race, ethnicity, social or economic class, religion, sex, colour or any of the other categorizations that so often divide us.
As we celebrate the contribution of the workers of Barbados and the workers of the world on this May Day 2020, we look with hope to a future of partnership and improved worker-management relations.
We look to a future of improved dialogue and a deeper respect for workers and managers. We look forward to a new focus on safety, health and workplace wellness. We look forward to continuing to build together, a better, more just society.
May God bless the workers of Barbados and the workers of the world.
I thank you.