Stronger Together: Moving Dominica Forward

Top Quote The People's Party of Dominica (P-POD) expresses it's support of Labour unions which help built Dominica and made us stronger as a people. P-POD congratulates all trade unions in Dominica on some 77 years of success. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) May 05, 2016 - Roseau, Dominica - a follow up to the importance of Labour Day, the People's Party of Dominica wishes to express its views on the significance of workers rights and bodies which advocate for such. The party strongly supports trade unionism and the existence of bodies which advocate for fair and improved working conditions. We as a people, often take for granted the rights to fair employment practices and a workplace free of harassment and discrimination. We also assume that adjudicating and employee-representing bodies, such as trade unions will always be there to address injustices like workplace favouritism and promotion bias. To a large extent, we are correct because historically, trade unions have enjoyed a strong relationship with Dominican employees both in the public and private sectors. The many accomplishments include the attainment of fairer wages, the minimization of conflicts between employees and executive, and the bridging of the gender inequality gap in terms of hiring and compensation. Trade unionism in Dominica has had and is still undergoes instances of intra-union fighting, political alliances, on a few occasions, decision-making not in the best interest of its members.

    Trade unions in the Commonwealth of Dominica owe their existence for the most part to the injustices and worker exploitation carried out during the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom. During that period, workers organized themselves into rights groups only to be suppressed and persecuted by laws such as the Combination Act of 1825. It was not until 1872, after a Royal Commission on Trade Unions decreed that the creation of trade unions was beneficial both to employer and employee, did the legality of such unions come into being. This new wave of worker rights spread to other parts of Europe and later to the U.S.A.

    The year 1938, marked the start of an era for official trade unionism in Dominica. The Moyne Commission named after Lord Moyne, visited Dominica to assess the fairness of working conditions. At that time, unionism was more active in the other Caribbean sugar cane producing islands. Lord Citrine, a noted commission member, later met with Honourable Emanuel Christopher Loblack, Ralph Nicolls, and Austin Winston to discuss labour conditions on the island. Loblack, Nicolls, and Winston gave the commission a tour of then poverty-stricken areas like Pound, Fond Mico, and Derrier La Resin. They voiced their concerns about the non-existence of legal rights to protect workers against dangerous workplace practices and employer exploitation. Lord Citrone advised on the creation of a trade union, as a means to address these issues. It was also around this time that the Dominica Civil Service Association, predecessor to the Dominica Public Service Union was created. The Dominica Trade Union (DTU) was born in 1945, with Loblack as General Secretary. Loblack became highly motivated towards union activism, after an incident at the Lime factory in Bath Estate left a woman worker hurt, and with no means of compensation and legal redress.

    DTU initially focused on the rights of port workers, agricultural labourers, and domestic workers. The union expanded in popularity and membership, and purchased its headquarters in Roseau on Independence Street. As some industries economically grew faster than others, workers in the faster expanding industries like banana farmers and port workers felt the need to later break away and form their own unions. The Dominica Amalgamated Workers' Union (DAWU), successor of the Dominica Banana Employees Association, was formed under Anthony F. Joseph. From DAWU was later sprung the National Workers' Union (NWU), the organizer being Rawlins Jemmott. DTU further splits resulted in the formation of the Waterfront and Allied Workers' Union (1965), of which former Prime Minister Patrick John enjoyed leadership for some period.

    As time moves on, the legislative and political influence and membership of Dominica trade unions waxes and wanes. Unions are sometimes at loggerheads with each other, some being militant in terms of wanting to enforce workers rights, while others lean towards adherence of government decisions with respect to their members. For example in 2003, General Secretary of the Public Service Union issued a call for more solidarity among unions against then feared, impending austerity measures which were supposed to have been set in the following year's budget. It was felt that the unions needed to address this as one voice, as the Dominica Association of Teachers (DAT) and DTU were showing tendencies of being sympathetic to government's position.

    We once more would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all trade unions in Dominica on some 77 years of success. We also would like to remind trade unions of their commitment to ensure a fair workplace free of discrimination, favouritism, persecution and the implementation of decent compensation packages. Such commitment should be unwavering and not subject to any political, financial or other adverse external influences.

    Here is to the Dominica worker, hats off in respect and in solidarity with decisions to ensure improving employment conditions.11

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