Can we make it to road of reform?
In some respects, the announcements of retirement by the Barbados
Workers’ Union’s Sir Roy Trotman (in August) and the National Union of Public
Workers’ Dennis Clarke (in October), both general secretary of their respective
labour organizations, come with a tinge of sadness. And such, if for no other
reasons than that it is almost always melancholy to see veterans exit, and that
both gentlemen may be seen to be making their withdrawal under
We are not oblivious to the rant of some commentators, in particular former
Barbados Labour Party MP Anthony Wood, about the unions of these two
abovementioned leaders not taking to the streets, and cannot help but wonder to
what end, in the circumstances, and to whose benefit would be the march. What
good, if Mr Wood should have his way, shall people rising up and letting “their
feelings” known serve him in the first place, his party and the country? He is yet
to explain from his hyperbolic and distorted context –– which has received the
public rebuff it deserves –– what gain it would be to the public sector workers,
mostly temporary, who must shortly go home, for the sake of our national
No doubt Prime Minister Freundel Stuart must have already punished
Mr Wood and his inadvertent burlesque with laughter.
Sir Roy has gone on record before as indicating the futility of marching
his troops up and down the country on this matter of the layoffs, even while
expressing displeasure with some procedures of the Government. He would
rather have meaningful dialogue with Mr Stuart and company and seek to mitigate
where possible the agony and heartache of dismissal, or offer, where viable,
The averting of 300 lost Barbados Water Authority jobs today, through viable
alternatives, as spearheaded by Sir Roy on behalf of union members, is a case
Mr Clarke has pretty much declared that he is on the same page as Sir Roy.
We will have had prior disagreements with either gentlemen on positions
taken, statements made, or action taken; but that will be no valid reason for us
to jettison a much less cantankerous and bellicose approach to the challenges
our Government and country currently face, under the pretence of safeguarding
the rights and well-being of people who will lose their jobs –– hardly through
any fault of theirs, and more so simply because their employer can longer sustain
Mr Clarke and his NUPW have declared that they will not be engaging the
proposed 3,000 or may be fewer Government workers who will lose their jobs
in any strike, other industrial action or march.
Mr Clarke sees no point in it, nor do we. It seems to us that it would
be more beneficial helping those displaced to seek alternative enrolment or
contracting, or establishing self-employment services –– or for as long as practical
helping them along as a good neighbour should. There is no shame in being our
The NUPW head is on the right track when he says that in these . . . . . times
his organization too has to see how best it can reconcile the fallout suffered by
those members who will become unemployed, while continuing to protect those
who haven’t been –– which all the wild marching propagated by Mr Wood will
not and cannot.
In our neck of the woods, the adversarial confrontation of the union as a
weapon against employers is more or less passé. What some of our politicians
and commentators have difficultly comprehending is that industrial relations
has put on a new face. People talk and consult much more. Egotism is left
at the door.
The dilemma we all now face may yet reform our political perspectives and
hone our skills at labour-employer compromise and mutuality of benefits. If we
can take no lessons from our present circumstance that will guide us and fortify
our future, we will have failed as a people.
Without a doubt, we will all have to hold some strain, propping up each other
where we can; our goal being making that firmer step towards true economic
growth and prosperity for all. We will have to work harder, more creatively,
more productively. Remuneration will not be automatic; it will have to be
diligently worked for –– for the better of Barbados.
The truth is our Barbadian labour market is not performing as well as it could.
Our politicians have led us to believe there are magicians, able to pull many
a rabbit out of the hat –– which in fact they cannot do. It’s all sleight of ha
nd at best.
Public sector/private sector/inter-relations have long needed a overhaul, as
with our politics. Now is as good a time for that reformation. Otherwise we will
not improve in our productivity nor creativity; and our economy will certainly
The answers do not lie exclusively with our political leaders. They lie within
our own collective educational consciousness as a people. Miss Mottley may
have been on to something with her People’s Assemblies –– which Anthony