In the 1930’s the colonies in the Caribbean experienced severe economic depression resulting in strikes, riots and violence by workers in nearly all the territories. These widespread industrial disturbances prompted the British Government to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to Investigate the causes.
The St. Lucia Employers’ Federation was organized to provide Employers with a legal body to represent, promote and protect their interests, in addition to promoting sympathetic understanding and good rapport between employers and employees, thereby furthering the cause of good industrial relations in Saint Lucia. In the 1930’s the colonies in the Caribbean experienced severe economic depression resulting in strikes, riots and violence by workers in nearly all the territories. These widespread industrial disturbances prompted the British Government to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to Investigate the causes.
The Commission comprised Lord Moyne as Chairman and included Sir Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the British Trade Union Congress. The Commission recommended, after a full inquiry and evidence taken from many sources in the Caribbean, the introduction of Trade Unions. The British Government endorsed the recommendation for the introduction of the Trade Union Movement in the Colonies in 1937. Two trade unions were formed. The St. Lucia Workers Co-operative Union, which was registered in 1940, was organized mainly for agricultural workers, while the Seamen Waterfront Workers Union which was registered four years later in 1944, concerned itself with stevedores and other workers on the wharves.
After the General Elections of 1951, held under the principle of University Adult Suffrage – one man, one vote, – and with the influence of, and the support from, the St. Lucia Labour Party in Government, the Unions tried to accomplish through labour legislation what it was not possible to obtain through the collective bargaining process. The Trade Unions, with political support behind them, began to agitate for higher wages and other terms and conditions of employment for their members working on the estates and on the docks. In the early days, the unions had a “field day” as they could bargain with individual owners of estates and other employers of labour. There was always the possible threat of industrial action as they endeavored to extract the maximum possible benefits for their members in different establishments. They referred to their members as the “working class.”
A group of estate owners, agriculturists and business entrepreneurs came to the conclusion that, in order to bring about balance and harmony in the field of industrial relations in the country, there should be formed an organization with the ability equal to the colleagues of the Trade Unions in their quest for substantial changes in conditions in all matters relating to employment. Contact was made with Trinidad & Tobago and other sources where employers’ organizations existed and information received from these sources assisted in the formation of the St. Lucia Employers’ Federation.
The Hon. Maurice Charles Salles–Miquelle, OBE, a barrister-at-Law, was requested to spearhead the mission for the establishment of an Employers’ body in St. Lucia He was at the time a nominated member of both the Executive Council and Legislative Council. He was well aware of the concerns of the farmers and the business people in the face of the determination of the newly registered unions to recruit and organize workers in all areas of the workplace and the impact such union representation would have on the overall operations of industry and employment in the State. Hon. Salles–Miquelle was responsible for the drafting of the Rules for the proposed organization. After a series of consultations, discussions and meetings, it was decided that the organization should be formed and be named the St. Lucia Employers’ Federation.
An application was made for registration of the organization under the Trade Unions and Trade Disputes Ordinance No. 16 of 1959. With the approval of the Registrar of Trade Unions, The St. Lucia Employers’ Federation became recognized as the legal representative of all employers in St. Lucia on 20th October 1961. At the first formal meeting of the Founding members of the Federation, the Hon. M.C. Salles- Miquelle became the first elected President of the St. Lucia Employers’ Federation.
It should be noted that nearly all the original members of the First Committee of Management were in the field of Agriculture:
- Estate proprietors, some owned more than one estate
- Agriculturists and
- Commercial entrepreneurs