Kingston Bakery Strike

A photograph to show the interior of a bakery with wasted dough and a telegram from the Governor of Jamaica’s office to the Secretary of State of the Colonies, which accompanied the photograph. The telegram gave details of a strike at Kingston’s main bakery, 28 April 1943. Catalogue ref: CO 137/855/11.

Alexander Bustamante was an important politician, trade unionist and critic of the colonial system. He spoke out about unemployment, low wages, and poor working conditions for Jamaicans in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1938 he founded the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), previously known as The Jamaica Workers Union. He was imprisoned in September 1940 for an alleged violation of the Defence of the Realm Act and released in February 1942. A year later he founded the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and became the first Prime Minister of Jamaica in 1962 when Jamaican gained independence.

Defence Regulations were laws that could control almost every aspect of everyday life in the country.

  • Why were the telegram and photograph both sent to the Secretary of State of the Colonies? 
  • What is the viewpoint of Sir R. Adams towards the bakery strike? 
  • Why do you think he wants an ‘amendment of Defence Regulations’? 



Cypher Telegram


FROM JAMAICA (Sir A. Richards)

  1. 28th April 1943.
  2. 29th April 1943 05.40 hrs


No. 383 Secret.

Defence Regulation 19A.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the activities of Bustamante are being  deliberately directed to irresponsible and unnecessary interference with trade and industry generally, as part of the plan to provoke critical situation, in which the Government might be forced to appeal to him to assist in restoring order and so enable him to regain dwindling prestige. Recent example is the strike, with wholly inadequate notice, at the principal Kingston bakery, resulting in waste of over 5000 pounds of imported food serious inconvenience to consumers and loss of employment to over 130 workers. There are indications that the strikers, most of whom, if not all, belong to the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, realized that their demands were not reasonable and that the strike was pre-arranged, but there is no evidence directly connecting Bustamante. Attitude of other labour organizations to the strike is indicated by willingness of Jamaica United Workers which, unlike the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union , is affiliated to Trades Union Council to provide (for) strike breakers.

  1. It is possible that this irresponsible interference may spread to the whole of the bakery industry and to other industries. Matters have gone beyond slight interference with the functioning of the industries, and if allowed to drift, are likely to end in complete breakdown and disorder. Amendment of Defence Regulations that I suggest is, in my opinion, now imperative if such a situation is to be avoided. I do not (repeat not) think that the amendment of Defence Regulations contemplated would imperil the constitution discussions, and I trust that you will now agree.
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