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

portentous clouds.

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,

an alternative.

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

in point.

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

their recruitment.

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

brother’s keeper.

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

not grow.

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

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