Ambassador Steve Wrensford reflects on the early achievements of the Labour Movement at Requiem

Basseterre, St Kitts, June 4, 2019 – Reflecting on the collective work of past Labour Party stalwarts, their shared triumphs, joint accomplishments and in memory of their blood that was shed, their pain and their suffering, the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) candidate for St Christopher 4, His Excellency Ambassador Steve Wrensford, called for a reigniting of the flames that should inspire victory in all 8 constituencies in the next General Elections.
Delivering the keynote address at the annual Remembrance Service at the historic Ebenezer Methodist Church in Old Road on Sunday, Mr Wrensford documented the lengthy list of triumphs and victories on behalf of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“This story is important, because for the most part, the luxuries, the opportunities shared by all citizens of St Kitts and Nevis are as a direct result of the life and work of our forebearers who toiled for decades in service to our Movement. In the early years of our movement we were able to field Thomas Manchester and Edgar Challenger as candidates from the Workers’ League in the 1937 general elections. Several public meetings took place during the campaign, but the one that drew most attention took place right here in Old Road where Isa Bradley, a retired head teacher, declared to the consternation of her fellow member of the Workers League that “no white man should be elected to the Council.” Bradley’s bold statement and the support it gained among the people was a clear warning that the status quo would no longer be acceptable,” said Wrensford.
“Both Manchester and Challenger handily won their seats on the Legislative Council. Much reformist legislation was passed over the next two years, promoted primarily by the Workers League members who ‘were now able to use their legislative influence to promote political and social objectives of their organization.’ The piece of legislation which had the most impact on workers was the Trade Unions Act 1939 which ‘protected trade unions from actions in tort, guaranteed the right of peaceful picketing and established regulations governing the registration and legal operation of trade unions,'” said Wrensford.
He said as the Labour Party continued to forge ahead a strategic decision was made in the late 1940’s by the Movement’s Leadership to transition from industrial confrontation to political activity.
“This move brought about for our people universal adult suffrage, an elected majority in the Legislative Council and the ability for individuals from the working and middle classes to be able to contest elections. Sweeping political victories in the 1952 elections was able to engineer for working class people a host of accomplishments over the next two decades,” said Wrensford, who was accredited to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
He added: “Severance pay became a reality for many, an increase in workmen’s compensation death benefits, minimum hourly rates, slum clearance and a new home construction programme through the creation of The Central Housing Authority (CHA), now the National Housing Corporation (NHC) were serious achievements which raised the standard of living and the quality of life for working class people at the time.
“In 1965 Funeral grant for government non-established workers, minimum wage for shop assistants and cashiers and others, holiday pay for agricultural workers reduced to 130 days eligibility and control over importation of machinery that could displace workers was accomplished. A year later in 1966 Severance pay for all factory workers, restrictions on the employment of children, labour inspectors authorized to inspect workplaces, plantation owners required to allocate 20 percent of arable land for vegetable production were all instituted,” said Wrensford, a former Deputy Director of the St Kitts and Nevis Social Security.
Stating that it was the Labour Movement that was in the march towards political independence, Mr Wrensford noted that the mandate was received in the 1975 General Elections, but negotiations were deadlocked for three years due to the question of Nevis and Anguilla.

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