About the Saint Lucia Labour Party
The Saint Lucia Labour Party was born out of two forces pressing for social and political change in Saint Lucia and the Caribbean in the 1940s – 1950s. The first was the trade union movement. Trade unionism came to Saint Lucia in 1939 when the Saint Lucia Co-operative Workers Union was formed.
The driving force behind its formation was Charles Augustin who later became its second President; R GH Clarke was its first. The Union grew quickly with membership drawn mainly from the sugar industry and other agricultural workers. Throughout the 1940s the union pressed for better wages and working conditions for its members and with the admission of new members to its Executive like George Charles, who became the secretary, Martin Jn Baptiste, Emanuel Springer among others, the Union became more vibrant. The example of the Saint Lucia Co-operative Workers Union was followed by others with the formation in 1944 of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Union.
Simultaneously with the growth of trade unionism, was a movement for more representative government and adult suffrage in the Caribbean. The system of government in the British Caribbean colonies at that time was the Crown Colony government. It consisted of a British Governor who presided over a Legislative Council made up of a handful of elected members and nominated members (nominated by the Governor) . The Governor and the nominated members outnumbered the elected members who themselves were voted into office by a small number of citizens based on a limited franchise. It was only persons with a certain amount of property and income and who could read and write English who were allowed to vote. It was a very elitist system. In Saint Lucia and other Caribbean colonies, there was agitation for constitutional reform and adult suffrage. The trade unionists were also involved in this movement. Some of them contested for places on the Legislative Council and the Castries Town Board.
In 1950, the British Government announced that it was granting full adult suffrage in the colonies. Persons who were twenty one and over would have the right to vote without the qualifications of property income and the passing of the literacy test. At the same time, it was announced that the Legislative Council in Saint Lucia would have been expanded from a five to an eight member elected body and that the nominated element would be reduced. This was great news for the members of the Saint Lucia Co-operative Workers Union. George Charles, the Secretary of the union, wrote in his book, the “History of the Labour Movement in Saint Lucia 1945 to 1974:
“The time had come to remove the trade union movement from the immediate vanguard of the emerging political struggle so that it will confine its attention to purely industrial matters. The unions could not vacate the scene however, without looking forward to a political arm to advance the rights of the working class and their aspirations which was understood to be paramount during the period of 11 years of struggle.
This was the premise upon which the Saint Lucia Labour Party was born in October 1950 as the political arm of the trade union movement. The founding members were: Messrs, Allen M Lewis who was elected first Chairman of the Party, Martin Jn Baptiste, Herman B Collymore, Karl GD La Corbiniere, Clive Compton, J. M D Bousquet, James L Charles, J Burke King, Horatius Philip, Roy Skerrit, Thomas James, Charles Augustin, George Charles and Vernon A Cooper was elected the first Secretary of the Party. Also invited to the founding meeting were Messrs. Francis J Carrasco and Louis G A McVane.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party held its first public meeting at Clarke’s Theatre then seated on the Reclamation Grounds after the Castries fire where it was enthusiastically received by a very large crowd of citizens, many of whom joined immediately. The principal speaker was Mr. Allen Lewis, the party’s chairman.”
The party’s first foray into electoral politics was for the 1950 Castries Town Board elections. These were the first candidate of the Saint Lucia Labour Party in any elections: Allen M Lewis, President of the Party, Dr. Carl La Corbiniere, Vice President of the Party, George Charles, Herman B Collymore, and Clive A M Compton
The party contested the first general elections under adult suffrage in October 1951 against the People’s Progressive party (PPP) which had also been formed in 1950 and against ten independent candidates some of whom like Charles Augustin were from the Labour movement. The PPP represented the upper and middle-class business elite who had been the nominated members of the Legislative Council and those who had been winning the elections to the Council on the limited franchise. The SLP’s Candidates were: J. M D Bousquet for Soufriere, Herman B Collymore for North Castries, Karl GD La Corbiniere for Central Castries, Clive Compton for Vieux Fort, George Charles for South Castries and James L Charles for Micoud/Dennery. All except Bousquet and Compton won their seats and the SLP gained a fifth seat when G Mason, who had contested as an Independent Labour in Choiseul, joined the SLP.
The SLP was also victorious in the subsequent elections in 1954, 1957 and 1961. In 1958, it also captured the two seats allocated to St. Lucia in the West Indies Federal Legislature. These were won by JMD Bousquet and Carl La Corbiniere, who became the Deputy Premier of the West Indies Federation.
The party’s first symbol was the Tea Cup- “Ti Tasse” but by the 1961 elections it was changed to the Star and the Party had also adopted the slogan that survives to this day: Bread, Freedom and Justice. This came out of its Trade Union background with Bread signaling the struggle for employment, Freedom meaning the freedom to associate, and Justice- just working conditions and justice for all.
In 1960, the British Government introduced further constitutional changes which provided for a full ministerial system of government with a Chief Minister and an Administrator instead of a Governor. The Legislative Council was enlarged to 10 members. The SLP won the elections and George Charles became the island’s and the party’s First Chief Minister. Soon after the victory, there was a split in the party when John Compton, who had joined the party in 1954 and who together with Maurice Mason and Vincent Monrose were regarded as the rising stars of the party, left the Government side and went into opposition. Compton, Mason and Monrose then formed the National Labour Movement. The split had occurred because Compton, from the 1960 convention of the party had unsuccessfully attempted to become its Political Leader and had also failed in a bid to have the Party propose him as Chief Minister after the 1961 elections.
In 1964, when two members of the SLP administration, the brothers JMD and Allan Bousquet, withdrew from the government over the issue of control of the banana industry, Chief Minister George Charles lost his majority in the Legislative Council and elections were called. Compton’s NLM merged with the PPP to form the United Workers Party (UWP) which defeated the SLP by 8 seats to 2. John Compton became Chef Minister and remained head of Government until 1979, the same year (in February) in which he took the country into independence. The SLP defeated the UWP in the July 1979 elections by 12 seats to 5 and Allen Louisy became Prime Minister. However due to internal strife between Louisy and his Foreign Minister George Odlum, the party’s term in office ended prematurely when it was forced to call early elections following a general strike against the Government which shut the country down. The SLP fell from power in the subsequent May 1982 General elections and did not return to office until 1997, when Dr. Kenny D Anthony led it to a historic 16-1 win over the UWP. Since then, the Party’s electoral fortunes have fluctuated. This is its record from 1997 under the leadership of Dr. Kenny Anthony
General Elections 23rd May 1997: SLP: 16- UWP 1
General Elections 3rd December 2001: SLP 14- UWP 3
General Elections 11th December 2006: SLP 6- UWP 11
General Elections 28th November 2011: SLP 11- UWP 6
General Elections 6th June 2016: SLP 6- UWP 11.
Following the 2016 electoral defeat, D. Kenny Anthony stepped down as leader of the Party although he retained his position as Member of Parliament for Vieux Fort South. Philip J Pierre, the MP for Castries East from 1997, was elected leader of the Party.