BWU reviews role in Social Partnership

Sir Roy Trotman
Sir Roy Trot man

One of the key partners in the Social Partnership today announced it is reviewing its role in the arrangement.

But outgoing general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union Sir Roy Trotman said this does not mean the BWU intends to abandon the course which it adopted more than 20 years ago or that the union believed it was duped from the onset.

In a hard-hitting address to the scores of people attending the 73rd Annual Delegates’ Conference at Solidarity House this morning, Sir announced that a resolution on the Social Partnership would be tabled during the deliberations.

The veteran trade unionist, who played a a pivotal role in the establishment of the arrangement, expressed no regrets about his involvement.

In fact, he said the “will to work together was good”, while noting that it occurred at a time when the International Monetary Fund had not declared a crisis, though there were fears that “something was going to overtake us and capital and labour had to position ourselves to weather whatever storm would come.”

However, with more than 21 years having gone since the formation of the Social Partnership, the veteran trade unionist said it was time for reflection and to consider whether Barbados and the groups involved had benefited.

“The question that has to be debated is whether we are satisfied in the Barbados Workers’ Union with the level of the relationship or the extent to which the employer as a body is relating to the workers in what we perceived more than 20 years as a relationship which could help to grow the entire country?

“Can we continue to be satisfied in circumstances where leaders of that said employers’ group, when it suits their purpose, will ridicule the Social BWU attendeedPartnership and refuse to honour the commitments that that group gave to the partnership relationship two decades ago? And can we be serious in believing that there will be benefits for us when there is frequency which we are now experiencing of employers who, at the same time that they wish to be in the forefront of dialogue where the public is concerned, then find themselves in a position where they reject the very foundation stones of the partnership or treat them with disregard in one form or the other.

“There are far too many examples which the Barbados Workers’ Union is forced to bring to the attention of the CLO [Chief Labour Officer], or, as in the public service, to Government ministers, and indeed permanent secretaries in their various departments where rights have been accepted over time as rights of workers, where practices that have been honoured over time as practices over which there should be no dispute, where issues of that sort become the day-to-day occupation of our officials. Several of those matters which could make the worker enjoy a more comfortable relationship at his place of work, are becoming issues for confrontation; the work environment is being treated like a war zone.”

He sounded a strong warning to employers that any deliberate attempt to trample on the rights of workers during this economic crisis will backfire.

Sir Roy pointed to numerous instances in which some employers “seem to think that the crisis we are currently experiencing presents ample opportunity for them to push back the hands of time, take back by force those conditions and benefits that workers have struggled to earn, reduce the dignity of work, and the respect that the worker demands at the workplace.

“If these matters – dignity and respect and a voice – are not perceived as important, are not given the recognition that is necessary and the workers are put into positions where they recognise or they suspect that hostile efforts to reintroduce slavery in whatever form are being made, the end result for our recovery, the end result for our relationship, will be a foregone conclusion; but it will not be what the employer may be looking for. It certainly is not what we think will make life better for all of us?

“I believe that we will be making a serious mistake if we think that the turnaround can be done and can be sustained in circumstances where the worker does not feel confident that he or she is sharing in the fruits of that wealth that will be created.” Sir Roy asserted.

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