She said Rochester who was 76 years old, made a sterling contribution to Jamaica and the PNP. He served as president of the National Workers’ Union (NWU), and represented St Elizabeth South Eastern between 1972 and 1980, and from 1989 to 2002, before retiring from active politics in 2002.
In a statement to the media yesterday, Simpson Miller said Rochester had the distinctive record of holding the offices of island supervisor and president of the NWU simultaneously, and the record for being the first worker delegate to head the union. He served as island supervisor from 1986-93, and as president from 1989-93.
Simpson Miller recalled that when bauxite infrastructural development and expansion were at their peak in the 1960s and 1970s with Alumina Partners of Jamaica providing employment for thousands in St Elizabeth, Rochester, after winning the St Elizabeth South Eastern seat in the 1972 General Election, quickly moved to establish the Junction Trade Training Centre, which was renamed in his honour in April 2013.
She said Rochester achieved another record when he negotiated an initial 100 per cent increase for workers in the bauxite industry, followed by an 80 per cent increase, and spearheaded the construction of the Junction Health Centre, where he donated the lands and raised funds for its construction.
Rochester became a councillor in the St Elizabeth Parish Council in 1969, serving until 1972 when he entered Parliament after winning the St Elizabeth South Eastern seat for the Michael Manley-led PNP, taking over from Vivian Blake.
He held the seat until 1980 when the Edward Seaga-led Jamaica Labour Party swept to power by landslide, winning all the seats in the county of Cornwall. He then served as a senator from 1980 to 1983.
Rochester reclaimed the seat when Manley and the PNP took political power, also by a landslide, in 1989 and retained it until he retired from active politics.
The veteran politician also served as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Labour, with responsibility for worker participation from 1976 to 1980, and minister of state in the Ministry of Mining and Public Utilities, 1993-97. Over many years, he also served as a member of the PNP’s Executive and National Executive Council.
Rochester was also the recipient of national awards, including the Order of Jamaica.
Meanwhile, Simpson Miller expressed condolences to Rochester’s family and said that at an appropriate occasion, the party would pay tribute to Rochester for his sterling contributions to the PNP and national development.
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