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Labour movement key to rebuilding PNP base – Patterson

Published:Wednesday | August 3, 2022 | 12:06 AMDavid Salmon/Gleaner Writer

Former Prime Minister and leader of the People’s National Party (PNP), P.J. Patterson, has implored a gathering of the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) that greater emphasis must be placed on rebuilding the PNP’s labour movement in order to be competitive in future elections.

During his remarks on Sunday, Patterson told the gathering, “We have never won an election when we are losing those seats where labour is a dominant force. So, if we want to recapture the southern plains, and we want to recapture the northern plains, and if we want to capture the municipal areas, we have to pay far more attention and embrace the union movement.”

This meeting is the first time the former prime minister has addressed the party’s executive since his accident in October 2019.

At the gathering, members of the NEC discussed Professor Anthony Bogues’ report, which sought to elaborate on the current application of the party’s ideology.

Weighing in on the report and its implications for the trade union movement, Patterson pointed out that greater political support is needed for the labour movement. He suggested the party broaden its existing base of support beyond traditional industries, such as bauxite, to services which he describes as the “new kids on the block”.

Previously, Patterson expressed concern that certain labour practices being employed have threatened the viability of trade unions. During his remarks, he criticised the current trends observed in the labour market, where a greater proportion of workers are employed on a contractual basis.

“We had to abolish the Master and Servant Act, but this new thing of contract workers is purely to circumvent the provisions of employer relationships, and we therefore have to attend to that,” the former prime minister asserted.

Patterson also took aim at the current administration as he expressed frustration with the seemingly slow pace of constitutional reform. Patterson, who in April retired as a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council, expressed the urgent need to revamp the country’s Constitution.

He told the gathering, “I think it is an absolute disgrace that we are celebrating the 60th year of our Independence and though the prime minister has said it to Prince William, the first draft of the amendment to the Constitution to deal with that is yet to see the light of day.”

Turning his focus to address the party’s long-standing divisions, Patterson urged attendees to give Golding their support in rebuilding the party’s organisation. In the past, schisms within the party have often played out on social media.

Addressing this matter directly, Patterson said, “When I saw and read some of the things that were being said, I never knew that Comrades could trace Comrades suh. It is awful, and the Labour Party just lap it up. Why have I mentioned this? Because I am glad, I am relieved that certain trends I have seen emerging would suggest that we can all come together again.”

This year, the four candidates vying for vice-president of the party supported opposing camps in previous leadership elections.

He also urges the party to pay attention to communicating its previous achievements as, in his view, the PNP loses its credibility when it fails to do so.