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70 Years & Growing Stronger

A Publication of the Barbados Workers’ Union Where There Is No Vision The People Perish Vol.15 No. 10 2011

Rt. Excellent Sir Grantley Adams 1941–1954

Sir MacDonald Blunt 1954–1971

Rt. Excellent Sir Hugh Springer 1941–1947

Linda Brooks 2008–

Lemuel Daniel 1979–1984

Rt. Excellent Sir Frank Walcott 1948–1991

Sir Roy Trotman 1992–

David Giles 1984–2001

Claude Skeete 1971–1979

Hugh Arthur 2001–2008


70 Years & Growing Stronger

BWU President General Claude Skeete, (1971-1979) addresses a trade union event at “Unity House”, Roebuck Street. At the head table (l-r) are Le Roy Trotman, the Deputy General Secretary and Evelyn Greaves, Head of the Labour College.

Barbados’ Govenor General, Sir Winston Scott signs the visitor’s book at the BWU Labour College. At right is Dr. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. Others in picture are (Rt. Excellent Sir) Frank Walcott General Secretary, Lady Scott, Evelyn Greaves, and Prime Minister Errol Barrow (later Rt. Excellent).


CONTENTS Editor’s Note Book From the Desk of the General Secretary No Time for Retirement or Relaxation Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to Address BWU’S ADC Seventy Years & Growing Stronger Decent Work For Domestic Workers New Level of Push-back Vulnerable Groups to Unite National Minimum Wage The Barbados Culinary Team BWU The First Five Years Sir Roy Steps Down As Workers’ Chair, ILO ILO Director General Praises Sir Roy’s Contribution ILO OSHE Workshop Some Highlights of the History of the BWU A Chat with Comrade Levere Richards Time Well Spent….

Information concerning this Publication should be addressed to: Bro. Orlando Scott Editor, The Unionist Barbados Workers’ Union, “Solidarity House”, Harmony Hall, St. Michael, Barbados Tel: (246) 426-3492/5 ● Fax: (246) 436-6496 Email: bwu@caribsurf.com ● Website: www.bwu.bb.org Photos by Brooks / La Touche Printed by Panagraphix Inc.

2 4 7 8 9 11 12 13 13 14 15 24 27 29 30 46 50

On the front cover are the Presidents of the BWU who have served from 1941 to present. They are Comrades: Rt. Excellent Sir Grantley Adams, Sir MacDonald Blunt, Claude Skeete, Lemuel Daniel, David Giles, Hugh Arthur and Linda Brooks. The General Secretaries who have served the Union during that time are - Rt. Excellent Sir Hugh Springer, Rt. Excellent Sir Frank Walcott and Sir Roy Trotman.

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EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK Orlando Scott, BSS

Senior Assistant General Secretary, Barbados Workers’ Union

70 YEARS:

A SALUTE TO THE STALWARTS

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his special edition of The Unionist coincides with the convening of the two-day 70th Annual Delegates’ Conference of the Barbados Workers’ Union, which opens at “Solidarity House” on Saturday, August 27. This edition also spotlights a number of other landmarks in the history of the Union, chief among which is the Union’s 70th anniversary, which will be celebrated on October 4, 2011. Under the banner “70 Years and Growing Stronger”, the 70th anniversary of the Barbados Workers’ Union is no mean achievement and should be a celebration for the entire workforce of Barbados. In the words of General Secretary, Comrade Sir Roy Trotman, the biblical three score and ten ought not to be seen as retirement or relaxation. According to Sir Roy: “The fight goes on and the more successful the warrior is, the greater the challenge he or she is made to encounter because human greed will not be denied”. In this edition, we pay tribute to the founding fathers of the Union, sung and unsung. We must recognise and give credit to the founding fathers, the officers and first members of the

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Executive Council, who bared their bosoms against the might of the Oligarchs to establish the first successful bulwark in Barbados in defence of Labour. We refer to the first President General Grantley Adams (now Rt. Excellent Sir Grantley), Hilton Coulston, first Treasurer, the first General Secretary, Hugh Worrell Springer (now Rt. Excellent Sir Hugh). The first Trustees (Caleb Mose, J.B. Springer and J.T.C. Ramsay) and the Executive Council which comprised Cossie Greenidge, MacD. Brathwaite, C. Gibson and A. Gibson , Reynold Grant, Cleophas Bourne, C. Medford, O. Butcher, Dalrymple and T. Symmonds. We also add to the foundation members, those officers of the Union who have served the Organisation over the past decades with distinction. These include Rt Excellent Sir Frank Walcott (1945-1991), the second President General Sir MacDonald Blunt (19541971), Claude Skeete (1971-1979), Lemuel Daniel (1979-1984), David Giles (1984 – 2001), Hugh Arthur BSS (2001-2008), Comrade Linda Brooks (2008 to present), and Sir Roy Trotman. The Barbados Workers’ Union has played a significant role in the leadership of the Trade Union Movement, not only at home, but at the


regional level, guiding the Caribbean Congress of Labour, and internationally at the levels of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), now the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Sir Roy Trotman has followed in the footsteps of Sir Grantley and particularly Sir Frank Walcott, who served at the level of the Governing Body of the ILO and was an officer of the ICFTU. Sir Roy went a step further and was elected as Chairman of the Workers’ Group, Governing Body of the ILO. At the June Conference, Sir Roy stepped down from the chair and was showered with praise for his outstanding work on behalf of the Labour force across the Globe, his contributions being highlighted in several of the recent landmark conventions of the ILO, That tribute has been recorded in this edition.

organised against the background of economic uncertainty across the Globe, which has seen the overthrow of several governments in North Africa, violent protests in European countries and the downgrade of the US credit rating The work of the Barbados Workers’ Union, in its attempt to safeguard jobs and keep the wheels of industry turning, at the level of the Social Partnerships, will also form part of the comments in this edition.

The 70the Annual Delegates’ Conference is being held during one of the most testing period for the trade union movement. It is being

We take time out to call on workers to renew their commitment to Labour and to Unity and Solidarity. ■

Over the past 70 years, the Barbados Workers’ Union has worked tirelessly to break down the barriers associated with colonialism and reshaping our society for the good of all our citizens, by way of helping to democratise our institutions. It may be said that our democratic way of life owes an indelible debt to the work of the BWU.

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FROM THE DESK OF THE GENERAL SECRETARY Sir Roy Trotman, K.A. General Secretary, Barbados Workers’ Union

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he following is the first part of an interview with Sir Roy Trotman, General Secretary, Barbados Workers’ Union to mark his fortieth year as an officer of the Barbados Workers’ Union. The second part will appear in the December 2011 edition. Q: You joined the staff of the Barbados Workers’ Union on July 15, 1971. Your entry into the Union preceded a period when the Union was involved in a series of industrial relations battles with the Employers, namely the Hensher strike, the Hotels’ strike, the Provision Merchants and the Commission Agents strike as well as the Clarke and Tucker strike. How did you cope in this robust environment, having just emerged from a high school setting, as a teacher? Did you have second thoughts of working for the Union? A: When I joined the staff of the Barbados Workers’ Union I had already had some experience of conflict. In fact I was, as a teacher, a founder-member of the Modern High School division of the BWU. In that context we had already had our first industrial dispute with the owner/ managers of the school and we had already tasted what strike action was like. I do not know if it was because of my behaviour during the strike and the subsequent head 4 | The Unionist

that the General Secretary, (Sir) Frank Walcott gave me. He gave me the reins to lead the discussions, even though he was general secretary and present at our first negotiations. He allowed me freely to speak. I had already been involved in speaking on the behalf of other people, in another place, and in trying to defend other people even though it was at the school level. So my appetite for representation of others, and, sometimes, for speaking out for those less advantageous than myself may have led me to this. So when I joined the staff, having been a shop steward and a secretary of a division, for some years before that, this was something that I embraced. Rather it embraced me, because those actions took place almost one after the other and I also got thrown into training from very early. I therefore had a combination of activities which really whetted my appetite for what eventually became my responsibility to lead in this area. The Provision Merchants strike was an eye opener for me because, then, as a very young person, I met workers who had been working for 35 or 40 years for some of the merchants in Bridgetown and who were getting $26 and $27 and $28 a week; and Barbados was not doing badly in those days. It was frightening when our Research Department did the analysis of what others were getting for doing labour work and what the Provision Merchants were paying people who were working as porters on the trucks. Then it took us into the Clarke


and Tucker matter which was bitter. The employers felt that workers who joined the trade union should not be allowed to work at their workplaces and the strange thing about it, is that it has not changed much today. We still have places in Barbados today where employers are demonstrating that they are slave drivers. Where they choose, they use the slave whip of demoralisation, verbal abuse and threat of dismissal. One employer changed the work hours of his staff from eight hours to 12 hours. When the workers complained, he made it clear that they would no longer work for him. My thoughts have thus remained focused on and committed to fighting slavery and inhumanity wherever it appears. Q: You have been an officer of the Union, now, for 40 years. What have been the changes in relation to Industrial Relations during that period? Many things have changed; but many things have remained the same. In those days it was not unusual to have a work stoppage at a drop of the hat. In those days, it was not unknown for people who were not properly organised to be fired, but where they were organised, then the delegates made sure they represented their colleagues with a vigour that really warmed your heart. Workers did not mind the sacrifice that went with the stoppage. Frequently, today, people, who have a strong reason for showing their disaffection, back away from doing it because, if they go on strike, or they take other industrial action, they are making a sacrifice, and today a sacrifice for justice is not as easily made because of the pressures, including financial which the newly emerged middle class are constantly facing. People are not so keen, I think, because we have moved into different levels of dependency on our wage or our salary. The lowly paid people, in those days, knew they had nothing and they depended very

much on what the trade union negotiated for them and they were willing to sacrifice. The newer worker is over reliant on the mortgage company or the bank and very frequently, cannot risk the idea of fighting the cause of justice; and because he or she cannot, he or she also frequently finds that he or she does not want to fight for respect either. And as you recall, Sir Grantley Adam’s claim, away back, is that the biggest claim that the Union would need to fight for would be ‘respect’ for working men and working women. We still have to do that today. The more things have changed the more they have come full circle. The matter of negotiations is different too. I don’t think that it was necessary always for you to be equipped with facts and figures and a plethora of information with which to convince the other side. In fact, in many instances, the whole of the country stood behind you when ever the talk of a work stoppage came along because they knew that you were the underdog. Additionally, the employer was seen and clearly recognised because very often he or she spoke with a different accent and had a different colour. Times have changed now and even, sometimes, today where you produce all of the relevant information that should impact on a set of negotiations, the employer remains implacable because of the body of sentiment that says ‘I am not concerned with anybody other than my partner, my cat and my dog’. That position today reduces the level of purposeful negotiations. It also changes the power relationship in those affected environments. The fact of the matter is that industrial relations is not merely a matter of figures, it’s a power relationship that speaks about the relative strength of the employer and the relative strength of the worker. The worker’s strength comes from the degree of respect that he or she is able to command and his or her willingness to fight for what The Unionist | 5


he or she believes in. The changes have gone in many different ways; but, we have moved away from the confrontational approach that existed then. Now we have adopted a stronger recognition that there are other parties involved in the bargain. And to a much greater extent than before, the parties factor in what we now call stakeholders and not merely shareholders. What I mean by that is, that it is not only the employer and the workers who work for the company but, to a much greater extent, the national well-being has become a major factor in any given set of negotiations. In the year 2011 we are now talking about social dialogue and social responsibility in a manner that is much more meaningful to men and women at work than it was in the year 1971, when I joined the staff of the BWU. Q: The Telephone Company strike of 1980-1981, also known as the David Giles strike, was a testing time for you, seeing you were the officer dealing

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the division. Could you detail how the strike, with its attendant issues, including politics, affected you, and the Union, generally? A: Well, the political leadership of the country at that time accused me of being a communist. In fact, sometime after that when I entered into representational politics that’s what they set up a platform outside my mother’s house to accuse me of. If being a communist meant follower of the principles set down by Christ then maybe that is correct. But here I was, as a young person, just willing to deal with the issues of representing the under trodden and trying to be able to make the life of my brothers and sisters much better than when I first became conscious and I was doing it under the umbrella of the Barbados Workers’ Union. continued on page 14


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No Time for Retirement or Relaxation

he Barbados Workers’ Union will mark its 70th anniversary on Tuesday, October 4, 2011; but three score and ten, according to BWU General Secretary Senator Sir Roy Trotman ought not to be seen as “retirement or relaxation”. “A time for reflection, yes; but reflection only in the sense of that which the climber experiences when, from time to time, he or she pauses and checks to ensure that the object of the climb is still in focus and is still attainable”, said Sir Roy. “Naturally, the climber may have to adjust his path and may have to use different tools depending on the terrain and the general environment, which he or she encounters. In like manner the BWU seeks to condition itself at this time for the journey which lies ahead”, said Sir Roy. The Fight Goes On Sir Roy, writing in the Executive Council’s Report to the 70th Annual Delegates’ Conference, which will be held on Saturday, August 27 and Saturday, September 3, stated that the Council was fully aware that, contrary to what the folklorists may say, “the human struggle, like the workers’ struggle, does not end at the successful conclusion of a particular struggle”. He wrote: “The fight goes on and the more successful the warrior is, the greater the challenge he or she is made to encounter because human greed will not be denied”. Stressing that the BWU’s objectives, after seventy years, continued to drive its work and

help it to grow, Sir Roy stated that it was useful for the Organisation to revisit “the basic Rules for the BWU, which were set down clearly years ago”. The objectives today still remain, among others: •

to secure the complete organisation in the Union of all workers employed in all trades, industries and occupations in this island;

to obtain and maintain just wages, reasonable working hours, holidays and other conditions of employment, and generally to protect the interests of its members;

to secure legislation which will safeguard and improve the economic security and social welfare of workers, protect and extend out democratic and civil rights and liberties;

to stimulate support for the principle that our country’s natural resources and means of production be developed primarily for the satisfaction of human needs rather than for private profit;

to regulate the relations and settle disputes between members and employers, between one member and another and between members and other workers, by amicable agreements wherever possible;

to establish and maintain gender parity;

to defend and promote the interests of young members and future generations;

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the retired and the elderly; the socially excluded and persons with disabilities; •

to establish a social dimension to regional integration by promoting Tripartite Consultation both at the national level, and by assisting in the required capacity building to ensure that trade unions within the Region can effectively influence policy

decisions and promote social justice as an integral factor in economic development,; and generally •

to promote the material, social and educational welfare of the members in any lawful manner in which the Annual Conference may from time to time deem expedient. ■

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to Address BWU’S ADC

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rime Minister the Honourable Freundel Stuart will deliver the feature address at the 70th Annual Delegates’ Conference of the Barbados Workers’ Union which opens at “Solidarity House”, on Saturday, August 27, at 9.00 a.m. and continues on the following Saturday, September 3. Parliamentarians, businessmen and members of the diplomatic corps have been invited to attend the conference, which is being held during one of the most testing economic times for workers across the Globe. Some 562 delegates and 194 observers, from across a wide sweep of the Barbados economy will attend the two-day conference. Delegates will be debating issues such as the Barbados Workers’ Union’ 70th anniversary which will be observed on October 4, the promotion of Caribbean Unity, Safeguarding the Workplace, Decent Work and the Informal Economy, the Global Economy, Safety and Health with special emphasis on Chronic Non-communicable Disease, in light of the UN High Level Meeting on CNCDs to be held next month, and tribute to General Secretary Sir Roy Trotman in honour of his outstanding work as Chairman of the Workers’ Group, Governing Body of the ILO. Comrade Linda Brooks, the first woman to hold the post of President General of the Barbados Workers’ Union has been returned unopposed and will preside over the two-day conference.

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Sir Roy Trotman, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union greets Prime Minister Freundel Stuart at May Day, 2011

Comrade Brooks, who was elected as President General in 2008 has been returned every year of her term in office as President General, without opposition. Treasurer Comrade Washbrook Bayne, along with the three Vice Presidents, Comrade Carol Boyce, Byron Jackman and Neville Kirton have also been returned, unopposed. The Trustees are Comrades Lemuel Daniel, Hugh Arthur and Alwyn Tull. Nine women are among the twenty-seven candidates contesting seats on the Executive Council. They are Beverley Beckles, Madeleine Blenman, Heather Coward-Downes, Allison Howell, Glendine Lewis, Denese Morgan, Kim Moseley, Doreen Mottley and Harrietta SimpsonGreene. The other candidates are Edwin Adams, Victor Alleyne, Mervyn Blackman, Wesley Chase, Jeffrey Grant, Howard Griffith, Milton Griffith, Hudeen Hinds, Carlton Hope, Shawn Knight, Kirk Marville, Gregory Maughn, Cedric Nelson, Jefferson Nicholls, Alphonzo Pollard, Gerard Prescod, and brothers Desmond Roach and Winston Roach. ■


Seventy Years & Growing

Stronger

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eventy years and Growing Stronger,” the theme of the 70th Annual Delegates’ Conference of the Barbados Workers’ Union, is also the theme of one of the resolutions which will be tabled at the conference. This resolution, having noted that the BWU continues to take a lead in breaking down barriers at national, regional and international levels, influencing the social and economic landscape, improving the quality of life and shaping the world of work for existing and future generations, (a)

congratulates the BWU on its arrival at this significant seventieth milestone and for its demonstration that the land mark is being used solely to refocus and to renergise; and

(b)

recognises that this role has positioned Barbados in the enviable position of having a stable industrial relations climate and a unique system of Tripartism that have enabled the country to weather many crises, including the most recent, and establish priorities that will achieve and sustain future growth,

(c)

calls on the Conference to reaffirm its support for, and commitment to, the Barbados Workers’ Union and its efforts in promoting the rights and interests of all workers in the Region, through participatory representation.

The other Resolutions deal with “Promoting Caribbean Unity”, “Safeguarding the Workplace”, “Decent Work and the Informal

Economy”, “Congrats Sir Roy”, and NonCommunicable Diseases”. The resolution, “Congrats Sir Roy!” notes that Sir Roy Trotman, at the end of the historic 100th Session of the International Labour Conference, retired from the ILO Governing Body where he served for 20 years, nine of which were at the level of Chairperson of the Workers’ Group and thus as a Vice President of the Governing Body; “Whereas his outstanding direction, leadership and contribution have distinguished him as being one of the leading visionaries within the international trade union movement “And whereas the Executive Council; and staff are filled with pride at the sincere expressions of gratitude that have been extended to its General Secretary for his outstanding work in championing the cause of workers, sometimes in difficult discussions on issues including Child Labour, Precarious Work, Social Justice, Social Protection and most recently, Decent Work for Domestic Workers “Be It Resolved that this 70th Annual Delegates’ Conference be used as an occasion to congratulate and recognize the acclaim and opportunity that his success has brought to Barbados and the Barbados Workers’ Union in particular; and “Be It Further Resolved that this 70th Annual Delegates’ Conference, recalling the mandate to the Executive Council at the 61st Annual Delegates’ Conference, reaffirms the call to “create a lasting and tangible memorial in recognition of the work and achievement of General Secretary Cardinal LeRoy Trotman.”

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The Resolution on Promoting Caribbean Unity a)

Commends the Executive Council for its renewed efforts at revitalising the Caribbean Congress of Labour as well as its technical support to affiliates

b)

Thanks and commends Prime Minister Baldwyn Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda for his undertaking to sponsor the CCL Case for Labour

c)

Applauds and supports the further efforts being made by the new Caribbean Congress of Labour’s (CCL) Administration.

d)

Calls upon the Prime Minister of Barbados, the Cabinet and the Barbados Private Sector Association together to create space for the local trade union more meaningfully to assist in creating a regional socio-economic Caribbean Community; and

e) Empowers the incoming Executive Council, within the Union’s resources, to work expeditiously to develop a strong harmonious trade union base for the Region. ■

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come unto His presence singing!

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Decent Work For Domestic Workers T

he adoption of ILO Convention 189 and ILO Recommendation 201 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers has been described by BWU General Secretary, Senator Sir Roy Trotman as “the cream” of recent landmark achievements recorded by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). And during the coming year, Sir Roy has promised that the BWU will be working assiduously to have the Barbados Government amend the current legislation on Domestic Workers, the Domestic Employees Act (Cap. 344), to reflect the instruments adopted in June 2011 at the 100th Session of the International Labour Conference. Sir Roy classified domestic workers as being “among the most grievously exploited groups of workers in the world”; yet, he said, for more than sixty-five years the ILO was unable to get agreement from the social interlocutors to present, debate and adopt an instrument to determine minimal standards to govern their conditions of work. Sir Roy, who was Chairman of the Workers’ Group, Governing Body of the ILO, when the Convention and Recommendation were adopted, in commenting on the forthcoming 70th anniversary of the Barbados Workers’ Union, said that much of the BWU’s basis for its performance may be found in the objectives of another dynamic institution, which recorded a milestone anniversary. June 2011 marked the 100th year of the International Labour Conference. Sir Roy’s view was that the 100th International Labour Conference will, without doubt, be synonymous with the landmark convention”.

According to Sir Roy, there were some people who may wish to downplay the significance of these provisions for domestic workers in Barbados. He noted that anecdotal evidence may suggest that “within Barbados, domestic workers are not denied their rights to the extent of the abuses that are reportedly suffered by workers performing similar duties in the African and Asian continents, for instance”. Stressing that “it is necessary to ensure that these human souls are no longer neglected”, he said that the BWU was aware that far too many persons were unwilling to confront the unpalatable truth that domestic workers were forced to work in depressing conditions The Preamble to Convention 189 Decent Work for Domestic Workers states “….domestic work continues to be undervalued and invisible and is mainly carried out by women and girls, many of whom are migrants or members of disadvantaged communities and who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in respect of conditions of employment and work, and to other abuses of human rights…” The Convention calls on Member States of the ILO to ensure the right of Domestic Workers to Freedom of Association and Collective Negotiating and, among other things, it makes provision for this category of workers to: • receive written contracts • receive a wage no less than the declared minimum • social protection and social security • coverage as provided for other workers, including maternity leave protection and sickness benefits • receive protection from abusive practices under a system of labour inspections; • Enjoy the same provisions available to other workers in the area of occupational safety and health. ■ The Unionist | 11


New Level of Push-back T

he Barbados Workers’ Union is fearful that the Trade Union Movement in Barbados and across the Caribbean may be facing a new level of push-back from Capital as global greed replaces global need.

And BWU General Secretary, Senator Sir Roy Trotman says that in such an environment the attack on Rights at work should be seen as only a part of the great struggle which may be emerging from the West.

continued on page 23

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National Minimum Wage

Vulnerable Groups to Unite A

national Minimum Wage is fundamental to the Barbados recovery process.

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he Barbados Workers’ Union will be moving to mobilise groups such as Domestic Workers, Shop Assistants, Service Station Attendants and Security Guards. The Executive Council of the BWU considers that, critical to its action on this its 71st year will be the organisation of the social forces within the Barbados community. The BWU, in reemphasising its call for Government to bring equity and social justice into the work environment for this vulnerable group of workers, said that these said group of workers must be persuaded to join together, and with the informal sector workers as well with the BWU, to make the voice for change more vibrant. The BWU felt than the previous approach had all too frequently met with a response that “we can’t because they will”. The BWU has proposed that the new approach will, of necessity, have to be one of demand for reducing social and economic imbalances using the collective social power of the full range of social players. And to achieve this, the social actors led by the Trade Union Movement must come together to make a stronger effort to reduce unemployment and to reduce inequity wherever it exists. ■

This view has been expressed in the Executive Council’s Report to the Barbados Workers’ Union’s 70th Annual Delegates’ Conference. The Report notes that even though some economists will correctly claim that our consumer base is small, the BWU will continue to insist that opening the channels for increased consumption will provide a basis for social and economic stimulation including in the informal sector. Barbados and a host of similar economies have been indoctrinated and ‘brow beaten’ into accepting that the only way forward is one in which the employers’ argument triumphs: “introduce a social wage and the social imbalance will be made worse”, the Report stated. According to the Report, the truth is that Barbados has endeavoured to follow a path which sought gradually to describe a different path to social justice for all. The global crisis has however set back the local effort at fair distribution. The BWU therefore posits that a new paradigm is required. There has to be a distinct shift away from finance-led growth which insists on measuring GDP per capital to development-led restructuring based on the Social Partnership’s agreement on the ends (objectives) that the local community wishes to achieve more so than the means which the International Financial Institutions (IFS) wish to have the country employ. ■ The Unionist | 13


The Barbados Culinary Team

The Barbados Culinary Team which recently won 11 gold medals at the recently held “Taste of the Caribbean” in Miami. Standing from left: Stephanie Sayers, Andre Nurse, Jamaal Bowen, Janelle Crawford and Tristan Whitehall. Sitting from left: Wilwore Jordan, Mitchell Husbands (Team Captain) & Henderson Butcher (Team Manager). About is Dominic Bennett. The Team is pictured at the BWU Hotel and Restaurant Workers’ Week opening session, at “Solidarity House”

from the Desk of the General Secretary continued from page 6 The strike became bitter in that it moved from being a position where an issue of the rights of a shop steward were supplanted by the issue as to whether David Giles should think that he could challenge a supervisor, even though, as a shop steward, he was merely challenging to make sure that the truth was put on a notice board. And in my case it was one to see whether I should not be got rid of from the BWU because I was seen as a threat to “innocent” people. I was never a communist but I don’t say that with pride. I don’t see anything too wrong with it. I say that only to make the point that the effort that was being made to remove

me from working for the BWU was one that, thankfully, Sir Frank Walcott did not take seriously except to tell me what was planned for me by the political directorate of that period. I am talking about the period 1980/1981. It was unfortunate, but at the same time, that was an eye opener. I told myself that the only thing that people may have been annoyed with was that I was a good student. I was learning well from Sir Frank and I was able to bring to the table a youthfulness that, joined with the experience and the sagacity of Sir Frank, brought us to a different level of prosecution of the interests of the members of the Barbados Workers’ Union. I recall that, on one occasion I went to a certain workplace. I sought to have a young man get back his job. I pleaded the case, I thought, as well as any of our illustrious attorneys would have done in the law courts. The employer did not budge so I went to Sir Frank and I reported. He said, ‘so what would you like me to do?’ I said I think you should go and see the employer and help the worker to get back his job because I don’t think he should have been dismissed. Sir Frank and I went to see the employer. When we got there Sir Frank spoke very cordially for a little while, but never about the subject. After about 20 minutes, he said to the employer, ‘so what you are going to do for me about this young man?’ The employer asked ‘what do you want us to do?’ That experience taught me two things: one is that it does not take a big axe to cut down a big tree, and secondly that sometimes gentle words are able to do much more because the pen is mightier than the sword and the spoken word sometimes across the table to your opposite member achieves more than other initiatives. from the Desk of the General Secretary continued on page 52

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BWU - The First Five Years O

n October 4, 1946, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Barbados Workers’ Union, the Executive Council made an assessment of the fledgling organisation which was published in a pamphlet to mark the occasion. The Council felt that, while five years in the history of the movement seemed of no special significance, the perspective of time dwindled when compared with the achievements of the trade union movement in Barbados under the aegis of the Barbados Workers’ Union. A telling point made by founder-President of the BWU, Grantley Herbert Adams, now Rt. Excellent Sir Grantley Adams, was that he regarded RESPECT as being “the single most conspicuous gain by the worker since the formation of the Union”. He wrote, in his Presidential Message: “If I had to single out one conspicuous gain by the worker in these past years I should unhesitatingly say RESPECT, - he has acquired more self-respect than was formerly his, and has merited and obtained the respect of the employing class”. The President was of the opinion that the members of the Union could look with justifiable pride on the outstanding achievements of the Organisation in the five years of its existence Guy Perrin, Barbados’ first Labour Commissioner, commenting on the Union’s fifth anniversary, stated that, as the

first trade union to register under the Trade Union Act of 1939, the Barbados Workers’ Union had earned a place in the history of the island. He added that the Union had established amicable relations with employers and employers’ organisations in the discussion of matters mutually affecting them and this fact was a tribute to the manner in which the affairs of this Union had been conducted. In Great Britain trade unionism traces its birth to the exigencies arising out of the Industrial Revolution. In Barbados the dramatic upheaval in 1937, in the form of the disturbances, was responsible for the coming into being of the movement and, by the time the nations were at war in 1939, there was developing the machinery of collective bargaining. In 1946, one year after the end of World War 11, as a result of resolute endeavour, tempered by a spirit of reasonableness, there was a record of better conditions for the worker and increased wages, thus paving the way for a higher standard of living not only in his immediate circle but throughout the community. Sir Walter Citrine In accordance with the advice of Sir Walter Citrine, the General Secretary of the British Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Union was, from its inception, organised into a number of divisions with a central executive council elected by the Annual Delegates’ Conference which is the ultimate governing body of the Union. Some of the divisions represented single trades, others several trades, engaged in the same workplace organised for convenience in one group. Each division had its own officers and committee and managed its own internal The Unionist | 15


affairs, subject to a right of appeal to the Executive Council and ultimately to the Annual Delegates’ Conference. The first officers of the Barbados Workers’ Union were: Grantley H. Adams, President; Hilton Coulston, Treasurer; Hugh W. Springer, General Secretary; J. T. C. Ramsay, Trustee; Caleb Mose, Trustee; J. B. Springer, Trustee. The first Executive Council comprised: Chaucer Greenidge and McDonald Brathwaite (Engineers); Clyde Gibson and Alphonso Gibson (Printers); Reynold Grant and Cleophas Bourne (Longshoremen), C. Medford, (Baker), C. Butcher and Dalrymple (Coopers) and T. Symmonds (Seamen). The movement was not without its early pains of parturition and at the first Annual Conference, the General Secretary, Hugh Springer could only report the activity of two divisions. There were not even among the divisions which had signed the first draft rules. The new divisions, however, showed signs of seriousness of spirit and gave promise of developing great strengths and usefulness. The Engineers boasted a membership of 252 financial members and Ships Carpenters – 78. The Second Annual Delegates’ Conference saw the Bakers and the Seamen being again active together with the Engineers and Ships’ Carpenters and the eighteen members of other trades not sufficient in number to form divisions. There was no great increase of growth at the Third Annual Delegates’ Conference, but at the Fourth, the Executive Council reported a jump in membership to 5,587 with 22 active divisions. These included: Carpenters; Masons; Bakers; Engineers; Electric Company Workers; C. R. B. Workers; Produce Porters; Store and Shop Porters; Steamer Warehouse Porters; Printers; Ships’ Carpenters; Telephone and Radio Workers; Cotton Factory Oil-Mill 16 | The Unionist

Workers; Lightermen; Stevedore Labourers; Hotel and Restaurant Workers with members of the following unclassified groups: Agricultural Workers; Domestic Servants; General Labourers; Motor Mechanics; Metal Workers; Painters; Seamen; Gas Company Workers; Clerks and Transport Workers. Agencies had also been established with agents at St. Andrew, Sugar Hill in St. Joseph, Orange Hill and Carlton in St. James, Speightstown, St. Peter and Ellerton and Market Hill in St. George. Numerical strength was on the increase and in March 1946 membership was 8,470. By October, 1946, membership was at 10 697. It was not long after the establishment of the Union that it began its mission of seeking improvement of wages and conditions of work for members of the divisions. The outstanding achievement of the early period was the agreement negotiated in 1940 between the B. P. L. (Bakers’ Division) and their employees, by which the hours of work were reduced from more than eighty hours per week to sixty; bakers were classified, wages were increased with minimum rates fixed for each grade and a scale of overtime pay introduced. The inhuman practice of locking bakers in bakeries throughout the night was also abolished by this agreement. Major Accomplishment Another major accomplishment was the negotiation between the Union and the Foundries under the Chairmanship of the Labour Commissioner, Guy Perrin. As a result of this agreement, there were wage increases, with engineers placed for the first time in grades and minimum rates agreed to. The term of apprenticeship was regulated and a system of regular examinations bought into existence. By agreement with the principal four employees of ships carpenters, the practice of carpenters other than ships carpenters employed on ships was stopped and arbitration proceedings set in motion concerning the question of wages. In April 1942, Mr. Norman, Labour Adviser to the Comptroller for Development and Welfare, issued his award for Ships’ Carpenters fixing


the rate of pay at $2.60 per day for “skillfully employed persons”. Again the Union had to use its powers of representation when the employees attempted a policy of discrimination in selection of carpenters. The matter reached the arbitration stage and Mr. Norman was again called upon to give a ruling as to the meaning of the term “fully skilled persons”. First fruits of the Foundries’ Conciliation Board were an increase of pay of 10% for the engineers and the granting of a week’s holiday with pay. Following this triumph was the test of the Union’s capacity for leadership when D. R. Holder was dismissed by the by the Works Manger of the Central Foundry in circumstances which the division regarded as “wrongful dismissal”. The Council demanded reinstatement and the Foundry reminded the Union of the Conciliation Board. A meeting was held and the Union heard that the Foundry Directors had confirmed the dismissal, but authorised an investigation. Subsequently, the Foundry informed the Union Secretary that they were prepared to submit grounds for Holder’s dismissal but not prepared to submit the matter for variation of decision. The Engineers’ Division was instructed to strike and except for four men, went on strike. The Governor intervened and summoned a meeting at Government House where he rebuked the Foundry for not allowing the matter to proceed to the Conciliation Board; he also informed the meeting that he intended to prohibit strikes and to provide for compulsory arbitration. The Union agreed that the men should return to work. Arbitration Tribunal An Arbitration Tribunal was set up. On conclusion of the evidence proceedings were suspended and a compromise reached whereby Holder expressed regret to the Directors for any loss of temper he might have exhibited in the Works Manager’s presence and the Foundry agreed to re-employ him. The Second Annual Report commenting on this says, “The Engineers Division exhibits in times

of crisis a solidarity which is re-assuring. The Division has capable officers and committee members of whom special mention must be made of the Secretary who has shown untiring zeal, energy, great patience and perseverance in trying circumstances.” That the Engineers’ Division deserved this compliment was seen in 1944 when a dispute at the Barbados Foundry fully tested the solidarity and resourcefulness of this division, and the entire Union. On September 24th while protracted wage negotiations were proceedings between the Union and two the Foundries, Comrade McDonald Brathwaite was dismissed by the Barbados Foundry on the grounds that he took more time over his job than he should have done. He had served the Foundry for 25 years from apprentice to senior workman and had been Secretary of the Division from its inception. The Union felt that his dismissal was a challenge to its influence and an attempt to strike a deathblow at the vigorous growth of unity among the workers in city and country, and in factory and field. Conciliation failed on this as well as on the question of wages and a strike took place on October 21st. The strike lasted eight weeks and in this testing time the Union rapidly grew in stature and derived inspiration for the fight for the worker from the response of trade unionists and others in Barbados and elsewhere. Unionists in Trinidad, learning of the efforts to break the strike, publicised the facts of the case, started a collection and sent the Union substantial sums of money. Barbadians in Curacao rallied to the support of the Union making it unmistakably clear that Trade Unionism had taken on a Caribbean aspect; throughout the area Trade Unionists were standing as one solid united front of workers, identifying themselves with the struggles of their comrades across the seas. Eventually the Governor approached both parties. They came together and a settlement was agreed on. A new agreement was reached for a substantial gratuity. Without the Union neither of these results would have been possible.

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Nine-Hour Day In recording the list of achievements the drama of the strike is likely to overshadow all other triumphs. Problems of workers of the other divisions also engaged the attention of the Executive Council. As far back as in 1942 negotiations on behalf of the Bakers resulted in the establishment of a nine-hour day and a 50-hour week; the institution of overtime pay at the rates of a time and a quarter for the first two hours, a time and a half thereafter and double time on Sundays and holidays. The agreement also provided for an increase of war bonus from 10% to 20% and one week’s holiday with pay. In 1943 conditions of work for the bakers again received attention when the Union asked for provision of latrines and breakfast rooms. In January 1945 Biscuit workers received another 10% increase of war bonus but in September 1945 they staged a walkout and were successful. The Bakers also stopped work as a protest against the Manager of one of the Bakeries. The stoppage was followed by negotiations. Eventually an increase of 11% in wages was agreed on. Employers also agreed in principle with the abolition of night baking and intimated their willingness to support a demand for legislation. Tremendous Strides Tremendous strides had been made in the improvement of the conditions of work among water front workers. It was in 1944 that the impact of the war facilitated the re-organisation of the water front workers. A tribunal was sought and it investigated the claims of the worker. It awarded an increase of a war bonus from 20c. to 50c. a day and provision of a trip allowance of 12c. on week days and 18c. on Sundays for stevedore labourers. Since the setting up of the tribunal in 1944 matters had considerably improved and agreements had been put in place which covered an eighthour day, cost of living bonus, overtime rates, travelling allowances for stevedore labourers and an increased subsistence allowance during working days at Speightstown. Basic rates of pay per trip per man for Lightermen had been increased, thus shortening of hours for work for ordinary trips, improvement of working 18 | The Unionist

conditions in Speightstown, and consolidation of war bonus with basic salary. Finally, it was agreed that a Union delegate should be appointed as supervisor on each ship. Revised rates, shorter hours, consolidation of war bonus applied to the other water front divisions: i.e. steamers’ warehouse porters, produce porters, licensed porters, lumber porters. Sugar Workers Sugar Factory workers had their share of attention and an agreement provided for the grading of workmen so that in one factory there should not be less than one A Grade man for every four B and C Grade men and not less than four A and B Grade men for every one C Grade man. Incremental scales were fixed for each grade. Other divisions for which the Union concluded successful negotiations were the Telephone and Radio, Gas Company, Cotton Factory and Airport Porters. For the Telephone and Radio workers an agreement had been signed providing for a 48 hour week and increases in the rate of pay. Small increases in pay were gained for the Gas Company workers in addition to the provision of a breakfast room, an hour for breakfast and an eight hour day. New rates of pay had been agreed on for workers in the Oil Mill section of the Barbados Cotton Factory. These were arrived at by consolidating the former basic rates with cost of living bonus (30% and 35%) and adding 30% to the total. This came into force from July 1945. The task work porters also received increases of pay on the principle of a retaining fee of 40c. per day per man in addition to the fixed rates. Airport Workers Through approach to the B.W.I.A. on behalf of the porters employed at the Airport, revised rates had been issued providing for an incremental scale leading from $7.00 per week by increments of $1.40 per week to $10.50 per week plus 10% cost of living allowances, the first increment dating from April 1st, 1946.


The major task of the Union was to complete the organisation of the agricultural workers and the essentiality of this was made clear during the cane cutting dispute of 1945. The Union was however in a position to be of major assistance to Professor Sheppard in his investigation of matters appertaining to the cutting of canes. A memorandum was submitted to Professor Sheppard and as a result of a representative meeting a Committee was appointed to put their case before him. The President, the General Secretary (Rt. Excellent Sir) Hugh Springer, Assistant to the General Secretary (Rt. Excellent Sir) Frank Walcott and Comrade Cumberbatch of Todds also held discussions with Professor Sheppard. They accompanied him on several visits to estates. The Union regarded the recommendation and acceptance of the rate of 42c. per ton for cutting canes as one of the outstanding achievements in the history of agricultural and industrial development in the island and took full share in aiding its fruition. This had been followed

by the fixing of rates for out-of-crop work on an equally progressive basis. Achievement has not always been easy and apart from the intractability of the employers and employing groups at times, the Union was forced to face the difficulty of overcoming impatience and impetuosity within its ranks. The Council had always made it clear that it could not uphold any member of the Union in conduct which was improper; that it was the duty of members of the Union to conduct themselves in such a manner that no fault could justly be found with them. If this was done, the Union could and would protect them from injustice and victimisation. And again when the carpenters and other divisions exhibited signs of “kicking the traces”, they were warned that the “Union rules were against the cessation of work or the threat of it without the sanction of the Executive Council; that any precipitate action weakened the influence of Trade Unionism in the island.”

Chance Hill, St. Lucy, Barbados, W.I. Telephone: (246) 439-7997 Email: cscontruction@sunbeach.net

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Overseas contacts had been established and maintained. The Union had been in close touch with the British Trade Union Congress, the Fabian Colonial Bureau, the League of Coloured Peoples, the Pan African Federation, the National Council for Civil Liberties, and the National Council of Labour and Trade Union organisations throughout the West Indies. Labour Conference 1945

In 1944 the Union sent its President (Comrade Adams) and the President of the Engineers’ Division as delegates to the Labour Conference in British Guiana (now Guyana). In

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September 1945, the Union and the Progressive League were joint hosts to the Caribbean Labour Conference. At this conference twenty six delegates represented Jamaica, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada, Trinidad, British Guiana, Bermuda and Surinam. The delegates expressed high appreciation of the work and progress of the Union. The Executive Council described the influence of five years of trade unionism in Barbados (1941-1946) as tremendous. The Council noted that wages were the keystone in the economic structure of a community and when the lower income brackets had been increased; a leavening process began which spread through all classes and grades of workers. The Union was credited with being responsible for negotiations resulting in higher wages in many branches of industry, improved working


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conditions and a measure of security undreamt of even in the immediate past. Mutual Respect As a result, the solidarity of the worker and his determination to secure improvements and adjustments, employers had also entered upon the task of organisation and the Sugar Producers’ Federation and Shipping Mercantile Association had been founded. The existence of these organisations, with the co-operation of the Labour Department, had materially assisted in the conduct of negotiations. But as was said in one of the Annual reports, the Union’s success could not be measured in terms of expanded numbers or even in terms of increased wages achieved. The Council felt that the Union’s greatest contribution was to create and to maintain between employee and employer an attitude of mutual respect and consideration.

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The Future? What of the future? The Council felt that by 1946, only a beginning had been made, a beginning dictated by circumstance. But it felt that with better wages and improved conditions it was necessary for the needs of the worker to be studied. The Executive Council pointed to the establishment of a canteen, catering with the success to the workers. The Council pointed out, however, that it had to explore the fields of education, welfare, co-operatives and recreation, adding that, by no means had these things been overlooked by the executive Council. The Council added that, it trusted that, in the next five years the records in these phases of activity would be as outstanding and impressive as the achievements in the economic and industrial fields with the workers enjoying the benefits of social legislation which the Barbados Labour Party, the political branch of the Barbados Progressive League, was endeavouring to place on the Statute Book.


70 years later, we are of the considered opinion that the Executive Council of 1946 would be proud of the achievements of the Union – many pieces of social legislation being passed, a Labour College with recreational facilities

having been established, a Cooperative Credit Union founded and the Union presiding at international trade union for a.. ■

New Level of Push-back Sir Roy said that the Union had taken note of that group in the world of work who was claiming that the workplace no longer needed to be bothered by labour laws or conventions since such things hinder or even frustrate the objectives of business. “Some wish to revisit the current standards and, in their place, introduce a number of ‘soft laws’ which would reduce many of the rights of the workers.” The recently-published Executive Council’s Report to the BWU’s 70th Annual Delegates’ Conference stated that the organisation was fully satisfied that the step in that direction would be retrograde unless it met the conditions in the Clause 1.5 of Barbados’ Protocol VI. This section states: “The Social Partners agree that during the period of the social compact, Labour shall not be required to vary benefits and conditions which it currently enjoys, unless it is for its immediate general improvement, or, unless by such variation, labour assists in effecting the long-term improvements in the conditions of those employed and creates jobs for the unemployed”. Emphasising that those who believed that we need not pursue the fundamental planks of our

goals and objectives “there are new reactionary winds blowing from the North which are ominous indicators that the scares of the recent crisis have, like the biblical plague in Egypt, hardened the heart of ‘Pharaoh’ and made the businessmen even less respectful of human and trade union rights”. Sir Roy pointed to what he termed as “the rude awakening of the middle class in the USA, particularly in Wisconsin where the State Government openly demonstrated its plan to reduce the rights of workers Freedom of Association and their right to Bargain Collectively as instructive and simultaneously frightening”. Sir Roy, used as other examples, the German Telecommunication giant, Deutsche Telekom/T Mobile, which has forced the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) to launch a global campaign to gain the right to the freedoms in ILO Convention 87 and 98. Again, Sir Roy cautioned that this could easily develop into a pattern with Barbados experiencing difficulties with its foreign-owned utility giants, both of whom are engaged in various levels of management and operational reorientation and restructuring. ■

continued from page 12

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Sir Roy Steps Down As Workers’ Chair, ILO the DirectorGeneral, and, now, not just for you, Chairperson.

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he General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union, Senator Sir Roy Trotman has retired as Chairman of the Workers’ Group, Governing Body of the ILO, a position he held since 2002. In a moving ceremony at the June meeting of ILO, Geneva, Switzerland, Sir Roy, in response to a tribute paid to him by ILO Director, His Excellency Juan Somavia, told the gathering: “…I will miss you. I will miss the challenges that the ILO poses, not just for me, not just for 24 | The Unionist

“They are challenges which everybody, who has been so courageous as to accept a job in the ILO, is faced with every day and twice on Sundays. It is a challenge to create out of chaos, out of suffering, deprivation, the world of their hope. And the challenge of helping in that exercise is one that I will sincerely miss. Although Luc Cortebeek (the new Chairman) has promised me that we will be talking from time to time, so I may from to time get the chance to comment. “I will miss seeing our group look for and suggests ways of building trust in this house and building greater confidence among governments and the social partners. I think that is very important”. Sir Roy who has served the ILO since 1992, said: Mr. Chairman, Director General and all other excellencies and honourable persons here,


Sir Roy Trotman (c) poses at the ILO with His Excellency Jerry Matjila and Dr. Daniel Funes de Rioja, Chairman, Employers’ Group.

I believe that the newspapers in my country, over the next weekend, will say that the ILO is sending a commission of inquiry to Barbados to inquire into the existence of this person who is lauded so very warmly by Officers of the International Labour Orgaisation. “I think that by next week they will say that they have searched everywhere, even among the copies of the roll of the dead in the various churches and have been unable to find this person. You have, in fact, been much generous to me, Mr. Chairman, but I will let you into a little secret, it sounded nice, if we could only find out who the person was! “ I wish to say that I am really humbled by the very many kind words that you all said, not just now, but from the moment you were aware that I was standing down and the many persons who met me in the corridors and said kind things, nice things. I wish you to know that I appreciate every one of them and that I accept them with humility.

Regrets? “Do I have regrets? Of course, yes I do. I wish to before that to say that my departure has been in planning in my own country for some four years now and I would think that here in Geneva, for some two-and-half years, so those who know me will know that this moment was coming. “Those of you who have heard the report from the Workers’ benches on Decent Work for Domestic Workers should take note that my pending retirement was based on my wish to have you know that I wanted to accommodate gender. I wanted to accommodate youth and, going with those two things, I wanted to accommodate talent. If you heard the report submitted by Ms. Toni Moore of Barbados you would know why I was very eager to be able to have Barbados have a delegate that would represent the memory and the distinct service, if not myself, then on His Excellency the Rt. Excellent Sir Frank Walcott. “In another life, I was a teacher before I went on to be a lecturer in Industrial Relations. As a teacher, I used to like to think that I could deal

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with English literature and do it very well. In those days I had a better memory so I was able to quote fairly copiously from a cousin of mine, as he was at the time, called William, his last name was Shakespeare. “My cousin said: “There is a tide in the affairs of men”. He obviously meant of women too. But he said: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune. Omitted all the voyage of his life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full tide are we now afloat”. “We are on a full tide, not because we have sailed over all the obstacles of the ILO and therefore have no more problems to face but we are on a full tide because we have the ship fully staffed. All the gear is within the holds of the ship and we have a favourable wind. We have a favourable wind of public opinion and of mass expectation that the world expects great things from us because the world knows that if we do not give it then the world is never going to get it. “Acting upon, and following after, the tremendous work we did, concluding yesterday, the only way for us is further forward, using the good wind that we have behind us and the opportunity that there is for all of us to work on and I think that in he same way that I am personally moving for the good wind to help my colleague, Toni Moore. “I am hoping that that good wind will help this Organisation. I am sure it is going to help my colleague Luc Cortebeeck, on whose behalf I crave your further support and cooperation. I am satisfied that together we can accomplish much. “One day history will record how and when my friend and colleague, Dr. Funes and I, reached out to Governments. Before that moment, Governments were perhaps right in believing that we used to go behind closed doors and work out deals and then give them to them. They were denied the opportunity, in their view, of being full contributing members in this noble house. I do not recall who made the first step. Funes to Trotman or Trotman to Funes. I know that we

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met and we agreed that we were going to offer the opportunity transparently to Governments to ensure that they all were satisfied that we were interested in full tripartite consultation. “In fact it has become so strong now that we have got a little scared regarding what is the creature that we have created. So I think that it is important for us to understand some of the bases for my regrets. I will miss treating with Management staff as well as with NonManagement staff and with living out the reality that when everything else fails we have to try a little social dialogue, coupled with a little touch of compromise. It never fails. “One Hand Can’t Clap” “In my own country, on May Day when we invited Employers and Government to join us in our marches – and we have such a May Day – we march to the song over the last two years and it is calypso tune, “One Hand Can’t Clap”. Something we should bear in mind. One hand cannot clap. “My successor, Luc Cortobeeck makes my departure seamless and as comfortable as my departure from the Barbados delegation is made seamless by our replacing her with Toni Moore. I think that you should recognise that Luc has very firm values. Those values echo the values of the ILO and Governments, Employers, Management and Non-Management Staff of the ILO and the global public may rest assured that the work of the Workers’ Group will continue without break in a seamless manner, always working to the best advantage of the greatest number. “I thank you again very much for giving me this opportunity to speak. I thank you very much. I believe it is the last time I shall speak from this table, and with your kind permission, I shall displace myself from this position and be replaced elsewhere. “I thank you so very much indeed Chairman and I wish you the best.” ■


ILO Director General Praises Sir Roy’s Contribution “I

t is a moment when one of the figures who has truly marked the recent history of this Governing Body steps down from it”, said ILO Director General, His Excellency, Ambassador Juan Somavia, at the ILO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland, in tribute to Sir Roy Trotman’s retirement as Chairman of the Workers’ Group, ILO Governing Body at the 2011 June meeting of the ILO. “For the past nine years, Sir Roy Trotman has led the Workers’ Group in the Governing Body and at the Conference. He has done so with the greatest distinction, with utmost skill and with unparalleled commitment. “Those who have been deeply involved in the work of the Governing Body during these years know that Sir Roy has not simply contributed to it but has, in many respects, given it direction and left his own very personal imprint upon it,” he said. The Director General said that when Sir Roy came to the Governing Body, he had already brought a rich experience of leadership in the national and international trade union movement, following in the distinguished footsteps of his Governing Body predecessor, Rt. Excellent Sir Frank Walcott and having served as President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). Ambassador Somavia continued: “When Sir Roy took up the Chair of the Workers’ Group, it was very clear that we were getting a very substantial act indeed.

Your qualities, Sir Roy, of great firmness in the defence of the cause in which you believed, combined with your great personal courtesy, of a particularly Caribbean variety, if I may say so, your unfailing identification with the values and objectives of this house, and with its working methods, which sometimes resulted in your very straightforward reminders of them to those you felt were forgetting or departing from these. “Your determination to find consensus and solutions even in the most difficult and divisive situation, something which you drew heavily on your ability to see and understand the views of others, or even, or especially when you did not agree with them. These are some of the qualities which define you and which have made you the outstanding personality that you are in this Governing Body. They will ensure that you and your work will long be remembered when people gather in this room, not just as a memory but as an inspiration, too. Respect, admiration “It is obvious why you have earned the respect, admiration and affection of those who sit behind you, because you have led them and expressed their views so brilliantly. But you have also worn the same sentiment among those who sit across the aisle from you in the Government and Employers’ Benches. They know you, of course, as a formidable adversary when the occasion demanded, but also and always, as a reliable partner, ready to make a deal and deliver on it once done. “Let me add on my own behalf, an expression of, real personal appreciation, tinged with a sense The Unionist | 27


Sir Roy Trotman (2nd from right) is congratulated by His Excellency Ambassador Nkili, Chairman of the International Labour Conference, following his farewell speech before the Governing Body, ILO. On Sir Roy’s right is Mr. Guy Ryder, Deputy Director General of the ILO and former General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

of good fortune, which I suppose very DirectorGeneral certainly needs, that we were able to work together. I truly believe that the ILO owes an enormous debt to you, Sir Roy. Many of the things which we have achieved over the last years would not have happened without you or, in any case, not in the same way. “We have travelled this long road together and you have been a very strong companion. So, I can sum it up by concluding that when it came to building and delivering the Decent Work Agenda, Sir Roy did much more than a decent job.

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“So, from all your friends and colleagues themselves, thank you for these nine years of hard work, companionship and cooperation. We will, of course, miss you – although we feel confident that we will be seeing you at the ILO in the future – and will bid you farewell. You take back to Barbados with you our sincere gratitude and our best wishes for everything you plan in the future and this, the ILO, will always be your house. Thank you so much, Sir Roy”. ■


Dr. Alan LeServe, ILO OSHE Consultant, giving remarks at the recently held ILO/OSHE Regional Workshop at “Solidarity House”. Seated (l-r) Mr Orlando Scott (BWU), Mrs Dawn JemmottLowe, (BEC), Dr. the Hon. Esther Byer-Suckoo, Minister of Labour and Sir Roy Trotman (BWU)

ILO OSHE WORKSHOP

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he first in the series of workshops, organised in Barbados as part of the ILO Occupational Safety and Health and the Environment Project, was held at “Solidarity House”, the headquarters of the Barbados Workers’ Union, on Thursday, August 4 and Friday, August 5. Dr. the Honourable Esther Byer-Suckoo, Minister of Labour delivered the feature address at the workshop. The other speakers included representatives of the Social Partnership, Sir Roy Trotman, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union and Mrs. Dawn JemmottLowe, 2nd Vice President, Barbados Employers’ Confederation Among the presenters were Dr. Alan Le Serve, the lead consultant, Mr. Darwin Brathwaite of the Ministry of Labour, Comrade Orlando Scott of the BWU, and Mr. Anthony

Mr. Tony Roachford presenting to participants at the recently held ILO/OSHE Regional Workshop at “Solidarity House”.

Roachford, a safety and health consultant, was among the presenters during the working session. The two-day workshop, organised in association with the Ministry of Labour, was a success, with some 80 members of joint safety and health committees attending on the second day. Participants heard presentations on the Safety and Health at Work Act in Barbados, Safety and Health and Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, Common Occupational Safety and Health Issues in CARICOM, Hazards Identification, Joint Safety and Health Committees, and Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems ■ The Unionist | 29


Some Highlights of the History of the BWU

Rt. Excellent Sir Grantley Adams

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Rt. Excellent Sir Hugh Springer

he Barbados Workers’ Union was registered as a trade union on October 4, 1941. The first officers were – Grantley H. Adams (President), Hilton Coulston (Treasurer), H.W. Springer (General Secretary), Caleb Mose, J.B. Springer, and J.T.C. Ramsay (Trustees). Members of the Executive Council were Cossie Greenidge, Mc. D. Brathwaite (Engineers, C. Gibson,) A. Gibson (Printers), Reynold Grant and Bourne (Longshoremen), C. Medford (Bakers, O. Butcher and Dalrymple (Coopers) and T. Symmonds (Seamen). The Union started with three functional divisions – the Ships’ Carpenters, the Barbados Foundry Mechanics and the Central Foundry Mechanics.

• 1942: The First Annual Delegates’ Conference reported that the Foundry divisions and the Ships Carpenters had shown signs of seriousness of spirit and had promise of developing great strength and usefulness. The Engineers numbered 252 and the Ships Carpenters 78.

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• The first significant strike occurs as D.R. Holder is dismissed by the Works Manager of the Central Foundry in circumstances which the division regarded as “wrongful dismissal.” The Governor intervened, summoned a meeting at Government House. He rebuked the Company for not allowing the matter to proceed to Conciliation; and also informed the meeting that he intended to prohibit strikes ad to provide for compulsory arbitration. Holder was re-instated. • In 1944, the year in which there was a reduction in the income qualifications for the franchise from F50 per annum to F20 per annum, Comrade McD. Brathwaite was dismissed by the Barbados Foundry on the grounds that he took more time over his job than he should have. The strike lasted eight weeks and the Union rapidly grew in stature and derived inspiration for the fight for the worker from the response of trade unionists and others in Barbados and especially Trinidad and Curacao where sums of money were collected in solidarity with the cause. Trade unionism had taken on a Caribbean aspect. Comrade Brathwaite was not reinstated but he received “a substantial gratuity”. • Frank L. Walcott joined the BWU on January 1, 1945 as assistant to the General Secretary, becoming the first paid officer of the organisation. That year there was a jump in the BWU’s membership to 5 587, with 22


active divisions. That year, the BWU was host to the epoch-making first Caribbean Labour Conference which brought together such personalities as Vere Bird (Antigua and Barbuda), Robert Bradshaw (St. Kitts, Nevis), George McIntosh (St. Vincent), Albert Marryshow (Grenada), Albert Gomes (Trinidad), Hubert Crichlow (Guyana) and Richard Hart (Jamaica), who substituted for Norman Manley. • In 1946, the Union celebrated its Fifth Anniversary and published a booklet, which featured congratulatory messages from The Governor, Sir Henry Grattan Bushe, His Lordship the Bishop Rt. Rev. William J. Hughes, the Labour Commissioner Guy Perrin and the President General, Grantley Herbert Adams. • In 1947, the first General Secretary of the BWU, Hugh Springer resigned to take up the post of Registrar of the University College of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica. His departure was a great loss to the Union as well as to the political party. • On July 25, 1948, Frank Walcott was elected to the post of General Secretary. That same year, K.N.R. Husbands, an Assistant Secretary in the Union, joined the General Secretary in the House of Assembly, thus strengthening the position of the Labour Movement in the legislative chambers. Walcott was elected in 1945. Both he and Husbands represented the parish of St. Peter. • In December 1949, the Union participated in its first World Trade Union Conference, that of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), in London. • 1950 opened with the Union making important inroads into the sugar industry. To avoid a breakdown in that sector, the then Governor, Sir Alfred Savage, persuaded employers to change the methods of negotiating the sugar agreement. • In 1951, the famous Domestic Sugar Agreement was concluded. It brought

substantial benefits to the sugar workers, especially in 1951. For the first time a production bonus was introduced, and, in addition to the basic wage increases, the workers received a bonus of 19 per cent. This captivated the populace and helped the Labour party to sweep the polls at the first election called after the declaration of Adult Suffrage, gaining fifteen (15) seats of the twenty-four (24) seats in the House of Assembly. • 1950 to 1954 was a dynamic period for the Union: this period saw the passing of the Holidays with Pay Act, introducing for the first time, a legal vacation for all workers. • There was agreement in 1953 that Barbados would proceed to ministerial government in February, 1954. • 1954 saw President General Grantley Adams resigning his union post and assuming the post of Premier of Barbados. He was succeeded by McDonald Blunt, a port worker, as President of the Union. • The Barbados Advocate strike of 1956 was the longest strike experienced by the Union. It lasted 13 weeks. More than 200 workers were involved and this was the first time that permanently employed workers in such large numbers went on strike for such a long period. • In 1958, the Union renovated its headquarters at the corner of Fairchild Street and Nelson Street, City, making it one of the most modern of its kind in the region. • The Deep Water Harbour was opened in July, 1961. The opening of the Harbour brought the most dramatic industrial change in the history of Barbados, with more than 1 000 workers being displaced. This serious labour transformation without there being the creation of corresponding job opportunities in the country, forced some of the displaced workers to become dissatisfied. The Union used the occasion to introduce a new charter for Dockers. A provident fund, sick payment The Unionist | 31


and Holidays with Pay for pooled earnings were introduced. • The year 1963 was a testing period for the Union. The Union’s agreement with the Sugar Producers’ Federation was the subject of public comment by the politicians. This reached alarming proportions in 1963. The Union was able to negotiate additional increases following an agreement earlier in the year. This was as a result of higher prices after the agreement was reached. The Union proposed that a portion of the increase should be paid into a special fund to be administered exclusively for the benefit of the workers. The sugar producers agreed to the proposal, which was accepted by Government and legislation was introduced into the House of Assembly to approve it. However the Opposition vehemently resisted it and also spearheaded the founding of a rival trade union, the Barbados Progressive Union of Workers, which failed. Independence • 1966 was regarded by the Barbados Workers’ Union as “the most momentous in its history”. 1966 marked the 25th anniversary of the Union and it was the year in which Barbados, under the leadership of Errol Walton Barrow (now Rt Excellent Errol Walton Barrow), attained its political independence from Britain. • In 1967, the Union described the sevenmonth negotiations on behalf of the sugar workers as the major event of the period under review. The Sugar Producers’ Federation had rejected the proposals which the Union had submitted in July, on behalf of the workers in the industry, for increased wages for out-of-crop operations. The proposals were subsequently submitted to the Ministry of Labour with little improvement. The issue was finally forwarded to the Minister of Labour who, according to the Union, made an inappropriate reference to the issue; this action forced the Union to withdraw from further discussions with the Minister. The Union refused to start the crop until a 32 | The Unionist

settlement was reached. The Prime Minister intervened and introduced a Bill in Parliament – the Sugar Workers’ Minimum Wages and Guaranteed Employment Act, which gave an increase of seven cents per hour on fixed wages and 12 ½ per cent on other scales of pay. • The BWU Executive Council discussed the establishment of a Labour College • (1968-1969) • The first negotiations to be carried out under the policy of “trade integration” were conducted with the Beverage Divisions – BBC, Bottlers Limited, Bim Beverages and Banks Sales Depot. • The most notable event of 1969 was the opening of the Labour College at Unity House on Roebuck Street, City. • The Union’s administration was divided into three streams – Organisation, Research and Education. • The Union concluded arrangements for the operation of the Dockers’ Sick and Welfare Fund, to be administered by a committee of nine members, seven from the Union and two from the Employers. • In 1971, Trade Union stalwarts Comrades Evelyn Walcott of the Produce Porters’ Division and James Callender of the Warehouse Porters’ Division announced their retirement from the Union after a period of 25 years’ membership. They had each served on the Executive Council Walcott as a Vice President and Callender as a Trustee. • MacDonald Blunt (later Sir MacDonald), who succeeded Sir Grantley Adams in 1954 as President of the BWU, retired in 1971. A dock worker, he served as President General for seventeen consecutive years. • The Executive Council was making plans to acquire land in the parish of St. Philip for


The Barbados Workers’ Union organised a float parade as an activity to mark its 25th Anniversary and Barbados’ Independence in November 1966.

a development scheme which would include housing, a residential labour college and a shopping centre. • Hotel negotiations were conducted over a long period and concluded after the decision of the Executive Council to call a strike to vindicate the cause of the workers. The Union’s proposal to have a service charge distributed to workers was rejected by the employers and became the main area of difference between the Union and the Employers. • Negotiations were conducted by the Union and the Telephone Company on behalf of operators at the Company, for the first time. • The Union stated in a May Day resolution that it would be striving, to have a 40-hour week established, as a policy, in industry. • During the period September 20 to 29, 1971 the Union imposed a strike against Hensher Upholstery (Barbados) Limited after many months of patient negotiations. The Union eventually succeeded in obtaining for the workers better wages and conditions of

employment. Agreement was reached at the labour department on 30th September 1971. • In 1971, Commission Agents and Provision Merchants in Bridgetown resisted all attempts to conclude an agreement on behalf of lorry drivers, Lister and van drivers, van, lorry and Lister assistant, porters, messengers, janitors and watchmen, employed in the distributive trade. The Union held a series of public meetings and mounted demonstrations in Bridgetown to carry its message to the public. After the suspension of two Dockers, who had carried out the instruction of the Union to boycott goods consigned to prescribed commission agents and provision merchants, three public demonstrations were held; one confined to the workers employed by the Commission Agents and Provision Merchants; another involving the division of the Union and the third was a stay-at-home demonstration. Agreement was reached with the employers at an all-day meeting held at the Hilton Hotel on November 19, 1971. • General Secretary Frank Walcott and Education Officer Evelyn Greaves were The Unionist | 33


elected to the House of Assembly in the first General Elections held in an independent Barbados. • From September 1, 1971, three assistant general secretaries were appointed by the Barbados Workers’ Union. They were Lawrence Nurse (Research), Evelyn Greaves (Education) and Le Roy Trotman (Administration). • The BWU submitted plans to the American Institute for Free Labour Development (AIFLD) for assistance to establish a residential labour college at Mangrove, St. Philip. The AIFLD agreed to make a loan of US$50, 000.00, free of interest, available to the BWU. Government, in its Throne Speech, stated that support would be given to the Union for the residential labour college and proposals were submitted to the Ministry of Education. • BWU Senior Assistant Island Supervisor, Winston Small, affectionately known as “Biggerd Small”, died on December 19, 1972. • In 1972, The dispute with the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC), representing Messrs Clarke and Tucker Limited, was the major issue engaging the attention of the Union. The dispute centred on the important issue of recognition of the BWU to represent the construction workers employed by the Company. The Union demanded recognition for the workers and the employers resisted. A strike, which lasted nine weeks, ensued. The matter was heard before the Minister of Labour without success. The Prime Minister intervened and a settlement was brokered. • Customs Guards joined the ranks of the Barbados Workers’ Union • A medical scheme for Dockers, administered by the Delaware Medical Centre, was introduced on October 1, 1972. • The Union described the introduction of Severance Payments Act from January

34 | The Unionist

1, 1973 as a notable achievement for the Barbados Workers’ Union. • General Secretary Frank Walcott was nominated to represent the Union on a committee which was set up to plan for the extension of the Bridgetown Harbour. • The Union imposed a strike on December 31, 1973 in all hotels. The strike led to a close of hotel operations for four days. The strike was over better wages and conditions of employment. The two sides had been meeting for two months. There was a deadlock at a meeting under the chairmanship of the CLO. • From May, 1971 to June 1974, the cost of living rose by 78 percent. For the first six months of 1974, the cost of living rose by 24 percent. Prices increases were taking place at such a pace that they were eroding the increases that were negotiated on behalf of the workers. • Government informed the Union that it was examining the Trade Union Act with a view to introducing legislation to deal with certain aspects of Industrial Relations, Arbitration and Essential Services. The Union responded by setting out its views on the matter and stated clearly its objection to certain types of legislation such as compulsory arbitration, the right to strike, and other matters that were inimical to the best interest of the workers. • Basil Blackman, a former secretary/ treasurer of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), died. • September 20, 1974 marked the opening of the Barbados Workers’ Union Labour College at Mangrove, St. Philip. The opening address was delivered by Prime Minister Errol Barrow and the feature address delivered by Erskine Sandiford, Minister of Education. Included in the overseas guests were AIFLD representative Bill Doherty Junior and other members of the Board of Trustees.


• The President of Zambia Dr. Kenneth Kaunda visited the Labour College. • The Executive Council appointed the following persons to the Advisory Board of the Labour College – Frank Walcott (chairman), Claude Skeete, Le Roy Trotman, Keith Seale, Dr. Keith Hunte, Dr. Leonard Shorey, Rev. Sehon Goodridge, Senator Maurice King, C. Husbands (Ministry of Education), and Eevlyn Greaves (Principal). • On May Day, 1976, another milestone in the social development of the Barbados Workers’ Union was recorded with the opening of the three model houses at Mangrove, St. Philip, and the holding of the May Day celebrations on the grounds adjacent to the College. The May Day service was held in the Assembly Hall of the College. • General Secretary Frank. L. Walcott was defeated at the polls in the 1976 General Elections. His defeat left the trade union cause in the hands of Evelyn Greaves, who retained his seat in St. Lucy. • A two-month dispute between The Barbados Workers’ Union and the Transport Board was settled after strike action by the Union. The dispute had centred on a proposal for increased wages for workers at the Board. There was a two-hour work stoppage on Monday, April 18, 1977 followed by a two-day strike on Tuesday, April 25 and Wednesday, April 26.1977. • The Union marked the passing of Trinidadian trade unionist Uriah (“Buzz”) Butler of the Oilfield Workers’ Union. • The sugar negotiations of 1978 were settled after intervention by the Prime Minister. • Government’s wishing to impose a prices and incomes policy was denounced by the Union. The Union stated that it was unimpressed with the familiar IMF package deal of freezing public spending, devaluing the currency and reducing imports

• The Union strongly protested against the continued operations of the gambling machines, locally described as “one –armed bandits”. It said the machines were against the best financial and economic interests of Barbadian and should be prohibited. • A special conference of Commonwealth Trade Unions was held in Geneva in June 1978. The conference was spearheaded by the Canadian Labour Congress, with a view to establishing a Commonwealth Trade Union Secretariat in London. The BWU was represented by General Secretary Frank. Walcott. 38TH ANNUAL REPORT • The BWU suggested the re-introduction of a commission of consumer prices, to monitor prices of consumer items, especially as Barbados was an importing community. • The second phase of the housing development at Mangrove was started with the desire to have part of it completed by the end of 1979. • The amalgamation of public transport into a single service by the Transport Board was a measure which the Union welcomed. • In 1979 The Union announced plans to establish new headquarters. The Union, in moving from the corner of Fairchild and Nelson streets in Bridgetown, said it was the first organisation to move to the “south side” of the city of Bridgetown. • The Union congratulated a former BWU President General MacDonald Blunt who was knighted in the First National Honours. Sir MacDonald, a former dock worker, was President General of the BWU from 1954 to 1971. • Part Two of the Union’s housing programme started in April 1979. This phase consisted of the construction of 35 three-bedroom and 20 2-bedroom units. • May Day 1980 saw a departure from the established tradition of a bus excursion. The Unionist | 35


January 1981. BWU General Secretary, Sir Frank Walcott (now Rt. Excellent Sir Frank) (l) leads the march up Broad Street during the one-day shut down in support of the Barbados Telephone Company strike. Others in the picture (l-r) are: Vere Rock, Financial Controller, BWU, Lemuel Daniel (President General), Leroy Trotman (now Sir Roy Trotman), Burns Bonadie, CCL Secretary Treasurer, Orlando Scott (BWU Public Relations Officer) and John Williams (Cable and Wireless).

This year marked the first occasion since the Union first organised May Day at King George V Memorial Park in 1956 that there was no charter of buses. • The Union took note of the pressures that had been imposed on immigrants living in the UK by Enoch Powell and the British Government’s willingness to impose pressure on black immigrants from the Caribbean, Asian and Africa. • The BWU Choir, formed in May 1979, organised its first Christmas programme – The Nine Lessons and carols, at the BWU Labour College. • George Meany, former President of the AFL-CIO died on January 10, 1980, at age 85 years. • The Union celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1981

36 | The Unionist

• The Union imposed a strike against the Barbados Telephone Company after the dismissal of David Giles, president of the Union division at the Company. The Union claimed that Giles’ dismissal was contrary to the established practice and procedures in the agreement between the Union and the Company. The three-week strike, which started on January 7, 1981, was among the costliest in the history of the Union and involved a one-day island-wide close down by a massive demonstration by unionised workers in Barbados, which began in Fairchild Street and ended at the Company’s headquarters. • General Secretary Frank L. Walcott participated in the International Tripartite Committee on Action Against Apartheid meeting in Livingstone, Zambia which considered a policy of action against Apartheid and the upgrading of the 1964 Declaration on Apartheid.


• As part of its 40TH Anniversary celebrations, the Barbados Workers’ Union organised inter-divisional educational and sports competitions including a 30-0ver cricket tournament in which 21 teams participated. 41ST ANNUAL REPORT • The period was marked by recession on the economies of Barbados’ major trading partners, and this impacted on the island’s economy. • Lionel (“Len”) Murray, former General Secretary of the British TUC visited Barbados on March 2, 1982. • The Prime Minister went to the legislature and had a minimum Wage Order passed to fix wages to be paid to sugar workers. A number of meetings at the level of the Minister of Labour had failed to reach agreement. • Effective July 5, 1982, an Unemployment Insurance Benefits’ Scheme came into operation. The BWU had made strong representation to Government to desist from this plan of merging the Unemployment Benefit Scheme with the Severance Payment Scheme. The Union, while agreeing in principle with the need for the Unemployment Benefit Scheme, was still convinced that much of the groundwork that was necessary for the successful operation of such a scheme had not been made. • The Union held several public meetings in protest against the proposed Emergency Power’s Bill, 1982 (which sought to amend the existing Emergency Powers Act, 1955) which threatened to remove certain privileges, extended to the trade union movement during emergencies under the present legislation. It also introduced harsh fines and terms of imprisonment for breach of the regulations included within the parameter of the Bill. The Bill introduced detention powers which, although mentioned in the Constitution, had not, hitherto, been provided for by statutory legislation.

• In January 1982, Government announced a freeze on the intake of persons into the Public Service and on study leave. • During that year there were reports of layoffs and terminations of employment in both the Public and Private Sectors. • Banks (B’dos) Breweries Limited Division was the winners of the BWU’s 40th Anniversary cricket knockout tournament by beating a Combined Government Workers X1, at the Brewery in December 1981. 42ND ANNUAL REPORT • Government passed legislation to the effect that the May Day Bank Holiday would, in the future, be celebrated on the first Monday in May. The Union had been involved in discussion and correspondence with the authorities on the matter and had made clear its preference for the existing situation. The Union argued that the celebrations of May 1, as a public holiday in Barbados, dating from 1959, had become an important symbol for the workers. In spite of the Union’s objections to the change, it was legislated by the Government. • The Union said that while the Factories Act 1982 was a definite improvement on the old legislation, it felt that the Government should have moved away from Factories legislation and gone for a more modern and comprehensive piece of legislation. • The Union prepared a playing field at Mangrove, St. Philip in anticipation of its entry into the Barbados Cricket Association’s competition. • The construction of the Barbados Workers’ Union new headquarters at Harmony Hall, St. Michael was started on October 5, 1982. The hand-over date was given as October 10, 1983. • The Barbados Workers’ Union Cooperative Credit Union Limited received its certificate of registration on 8th July, 1983. Plans for the Credit Union had started in late 1981. A The Unionist | 37


steering committee was set up in February 1982 to draft the by-laws and bring the Credit Union into being. The by-laws were submitted to the Registrar in December 1982. At its first annual general Meeting held at “Unity House” on August 6, 1983, the following were elected to serve on the Committee of Management – Robert Morris, Evelyn Greaves, Frank Grimes, Margaret Wiltshire and Alwyn Tull. • The Union in 1982 spoke out against the execution of Cyril Daal, a member of the Caribbean Congress of Labour, and the imprisonment several trade unionists in Suriname. • Walter McLennan Citrine – Lord Citrine died on January 1983. It was Lord Citrine (then Sir Walter) who, as a member of the Royal Commission which investigated the 1930s disturbances, advised that the Barbados Workers’ Union be established along the lines of general workers’ union rather than forming a number of craft unions. This advice has been a foundation of the strength of the BWU. • The BWU’s playing field at Mangrove, St. Philip was opened on September 25, 1983. Among the dignitaries invited were (Sir) Everton Weekes, Senator Sir David Simmons, then Chairman of the National Sports Council and Wesley Hall (now Reverend). • The Barbados Workers’ Union moved from its Fairchild Street headquarters to “Solidarity House” at Harmony Hall, between late October and early November 1983. The official opening ceremony, attended by officials of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions - ICFTU, American Federation of Labour - AFL-CIO and CCL, was held on November 6 1983, followed by a week of activities. The 8th Triennial Congress of the CCL was held at “Solidarity House” between November 7 and 9, 1983. • The BWU commented on the events culminating in Grenada in October 1983 and which witnessed the assassination 38 | The Unionist

of Maurice Bishop with other People’s Revolutionary Government leaders and trade unionists and the eventual overthrow of the People’s Revolutionary Government by a task force comprising American and Caribbean troops. The BWU since 1979 had taken a clear stand on the Maurice Bishop regime and had abhorred the departure from parliamentary democracy in Grenada. • The BWU held discussions with the Minister of Labour on the White paper on Industrial Relations. The Union’s concerns about the White paper were clearly stated. The industrial relations system in Barbados over the past forty years had developed into a mature one which had worked effectively, and saw no reason why attempts should be made at changing the system. • The BWU made its debut in national sports competition on Saturday, May 19, 1984, when the BWU X1, under the captaincy of Henderson (“Boycott”) Clarke of the BBC Division, played against Princess Margaret School at Six Roads, St. Philip, in the Second Division of the Barbados Cricket Association. • The period September 1984 to August 1985 witnessed a momentous decline in the employment situation and, consequently, the standard of living of many Barbadian workers. There was spiraling unemployment which has been reported by Government to be 18.3 percent at the end of the 1984.the hardest hit sector was manufacturing and in particular those companies which catered to the Trinidad market. Koves collapsed. It once employed some 450 workers. Some companies resorted to a reduced week. • The Barbados Foundry, at which the earliest strikes were recorded 1944, closed its doors. • In 1986, what was described as a red letter day in the Union’s history, three employees of the Union – Evelyn Greaves, Le Roy Trotman and Robert Morris – were elected to the House of Assembly. General Secretary Frank Walcott was appointed to the Senate and elected President of the Chamber on


Wednesday June 25, 1986. Additionally, Dr. Richard Haynes, the Union’s medical adviser and Maurice King, the Union’s legal adviser, were elected to the House of Assembly. • Negotiations had begun for the newly-formed division of the Central Bank of Barbados. The Union had gained recognition from the Bank for non-management staff after prolonged discussions. The seven-month dispute was settled under the chairmanship of the Chief Labour Officer. • May Day was again celebrated on May 1, 1987. The Union organised a march from “Solidarity House” to Queen’s Park in which more than 500 workers participated. The return to Queen’s Park, where the event was last held 30 years ago, proved to be successful. Thousands of workers attended the celebrations. • Two former BWU Presidents – Sir MacDonald Blunt, 78, and Claude Skeete, 67, died. The Union also recorded the death of a former Vice President George Reid, who with Skeete and others brought the postmen into the Union. • Prime Minister the Rt. Honourable Errol Barrow (now Rt. Excellent) died on June 1, 1987. His May Day speech was the last official occasion on which he shared a Labour platform. • Housing: The third phase of the BWU’s housing project at mangrove, St. Philip, was started. Nineteen houses were under construction. Forty homes will be built in the current phase, bringing the total number of homes at mangrove to 119. • The University of the West Indies bestowed on General Secretary Frank Walcott the honour of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa). The General Secretary, who was also the Honorary Graduand, delivered the feature address and took the opportunity to state that he was privileged to receive the honour on behalf of the workers of Barbados. The Government of Barbados, in

the Independence Honours, bestowed the Award of Knighthood of St. Andrew on the General Secretary. • The BWU Cricket Team was promoted to the Intermediate Division in the Barbados Cricket Association. • The BWU Debating Society placed second in the IDC-sponsored debates competition, losing to Roberts manufacturing. 48TH ANNUAL REPORT • In 1988, negotiations were concluded amicably in the sugar industry in spite of the severe problems facing the sector. Conversely, public service negotiations ended with much controversy when Government went ahead and legislated salaries without agreement from all the Unions involved. In another problem area considerable progress was made in the Port rationalisation discussions. A two-day strike in public transport was the major area of disruption during the period. • The six-month Diploma Course was initiated by the BWU Labour College. • In 1989 the Union noted that the ideological reversals and upheavals in Europe, affecting countries such as Russia, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Germany would have a profound effect on the worlds, the Caribbean not excepted. • The release of Nelson Mandela and other former freedom fighters in South Africa was welcomed by the Union’s Executive Council as a hopeful sign of the beginning of the downfall of apartheid. • Evelyn Greaves, Minister of Trade, addressed the 49th Annual Delegates’ Conference. • The Barbados Workers’ Union celebrated its 50th anniversary, on October 4, 1991 The Union was registered on October 4, 1941. The Executive Council noted that in 1941 the registration of the BWU came at The Unionist | 39


BWU General Secretary, Comrade LeRoy Trotman, (now Sir Roy Trotman) as head of the Coalition of Trade Unions, leads the protests march in 1991.

the end of an arduous and long struggle by numerous, and some nameless workers who were willing to take a stand for justice, dignity and freedom for the working man. The Council paid tribute to the Union’s first officers, who were Grantley Adams (President General), Hugh Springer (General Secretary) and Hilton Coulston (Treasurer). The Council also paid tribute to the men who led the foundation divisions. 51ST ANNUAL REPORT • Government had entered into an 18-month agreement with the IMF. The impact of the agreement on the workers had been negative and most severe on the low income groups who were least able to bear the burden. Public servants were directly affected as they suffered an 8 percent cut in wages and salaries as well as increases in direct and indirect taxation. Large numbers were terminated with little prospect of alternative employment, and others were placed on short time. Public sector unions, 40 | The Unionist

• • • • • • • • • • •

operating under the umbrella Coalition of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados were forced to take industrial action as Government sought to roll back hard-earned social benefits and marginalise the trade union movement. The industrial action was taken over the following stated concerns: Payment of all money due in lieu of notice Restoration of full working week Adequate procedures for lay-off Restoration of severance payments benefits Restoration of unemployment benefits Removal of contribution to own severance A meeting with the IMF A reduction of stabilisation tax for public workers Controlled prices for staple food items The critical issue of the 8 percent pay out was before the Appeals Court After serving for a period of 47 years, 44 of which were spent as General Secretary of the BWU, Sir Frank Walcott retired from office on December 31, 1991. The Executive Council expressed deep gratitude for the


life-long dedication that Sir Frank paid to the Union, the workers, to Barbados and the Caribbean trade union movement. At home and at international fora, such as the ILO and the ICFTU, Sir Frank led a relentless struggle to improve the living standards of the masses. The Council was of the view that he had contributed to the development of every segment of Barbadian life. • Acting General Secretary, Le Roy Trotman represented the Union at the 79th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva. He was co-opted to serve on the Governing Body of the ILO. He served on a number of committees including those examining Human Resources and Apartheid. • The 52nd (1993) Annual Report Report noted that the BWU was operating against the backdrop of an economic downturn in the country which had seen the closure of firms and the resulting increase in the level of unemployment. Some employers had used the crisis as an excuse to try to erode workers’ benefits. Some of the strategies used by them were: Going directly to the workers about changes at the workplace rather than discussing them with the Union’s Secretariat • Reorganising their operating hours to meet company goals without taking into consideration the difficulties these changes would pose for the workers, particularly those who use public transport •

• Employing delaying tactics rather than granting the Union recognition; • Requesting concessions such as a wage freeze but refusing to supply the necessary information to make this form of concession possible;; and using the threat of lay off as a means of coercing workers into accepting reductions in the standards which previously applied at their work places. • The Report sated that the Union had been careful to confront these and other related challenges swiftly and vigorously,

wherever they had reared their heads both in the Private and the Public Sectors. The Union publicly acknowledged that the economic climate was one requiring new approaches, but it insisted that these approaches would work only if the workers and their accredited representatives were allowed a meaningful role in the decisionmaking processes. Government had in some measure recognised the legitimacy of this demand, and many employers in the Private Sector had also adopted more enlightened approaches to their labour force and to discussions with The Union, regarding the future. • A major challenge facing the Coalition of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados was the legal action resulting from the Government’s cut of Public Service employees’ pay by 8% in 1991. The Coalition was preparing to send the Eight Percent Pay-Cut Case to the Privy Council since the appeal was disallowed by a majority vote in the Supreme Court. It had also extended its litigation in this case. Two additional persons were identified, one from a statutory corporation, and a teacher from one of the older secondary schools, whose conditions of service were different from those of the original plaintiff. • The 53rd Annual Report (1994) stated that some employers chose to misinterpret the intention of the Prices and Incomes Protocol and use it as a basis not to pay workers for their improved efforts; others tried to use it as an excuse not to honour agreements entered into in good faith; while others still took unduly long time to meet or to submit information that would assist in measuring productivity. The Hotels and Catering Group stood out in this regard. Government, as a social partner and signatory to the Protocol, sought to increase house rents and bus fares at a time when workers were bound by a pay freeze. 54TH ANNUAL REPORT (1995) • The Barbados Workers’ Union stated that its participation in the two Prices and Incomes The Unionist | 41


Policy was part of the mechanism by which Barbados fought to overcome the economic crisis. • The Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) was legally established on the 12th August 1995, when the launching took place at “Solidarity House”. The launching of climaxed four years of increasingly closer relations between those unions which met in 1991 to form the Coalition of Trade Unions and Staff Associations. The first order of business in 1991 was to consolidate and to resist complete marginalisation by the Government under direct IMF-World Bank instructions. The experiences were harsh, critics unkind and the pain to the constituents severe, as members lost their jobs or some of their job-related benefits. • BWU General Secretary LeRoy Trotman was the recipient of the prestigious A. Philip Randolph/Bayard Rustin Freedom Award on July 1, 1995 in Chicago on the 8th Annual Award Presentation. The award was for Comrade Trotman’s contribution to the civil rights struggle and participation on the cause of the poor and needy. • The BWU Cooperative Credit Union Limited purchased its own headquarters, the former BWU headquarters on the corner of Fairchild and Nelson Streets. • The Civil Establishment Act was amended in March 1995. This amendment will prevent Government from unilaterally changing the pay of public officers in future. 55TH ANNUAL REPORT (1996) • Employment was the central issue for the Barbados Workers’ Union in 1995. The concern was to have more of the jobless find productive employment. Related to that was the effort, particularly with the National Conservation Commission, to have workers engaged for the full work week. The aim was as well to prevent the new doctrine of downsizing from causing reductions in workplace numbers which were not necessitated by 42 | The Unionist

failed operational or financial circumstances. • Recognising the significant impact of HIV/ AIDS on the workforce, the Barbados Workers’ Union, in association with the CTUSAB, invited the other Social Partners to participate in three workshops, whose aim was to develop a policy on HIV/AIDS and other Life-Threatening Illnesses. The Barbados Policy on HIV/AIDS and Life Threatening Illnesses was agreed upon by the Social Partners and was ratified by the cabinet of Barbados. • The BWU Labour College celebrated its 25th anniversary, marked by a series of educational and social events; the launch of the commemorative magazine “Reflections” and the launch of the Sir Frank Walcott Scholarship Fund to honour Sir Frank for his outstanding service. 56TH ANNUAL REPORT (1997) • The Barbados Workers’ Union suggested that the introduction of the Value Added Tax (VAT) had had far-ranging implications for most of the labour market transactions within the year. There was a slowing down of business and trading activities as several business interests tried to anticipate the effect of the VAT on their businesses and on the economy as a whole. • Operation Give-Back was the theme of the BWU’s May Day 1997 activities. The May Day programme featured a number of activities in which the Executive, Administration and members of the Union “gave-back” to the less fortunate in the society. • The BWU negotiated its first collective agreement, covering more than 90 clerical, administrative and technical employees of the Barbados Light and Power Company Limited. The Union already had a well established industrial relationship with the Company covering its “industrial” staff. It was therefore alarmed at the opposition exhibited by management to the unionization of the white collar staff.


• Barclays Bank PLC. A landmark collective agreement was signed on Monday, July 7, 1997 by representatives of Barclays Bank on the one hand and the BWU on the other. Barclays bank was the then largest commercial bank operating in Barbados. 57TH ANNUAL REPORT (1998) • The 57th Annual Report of the Executive Council reported on the seven years since the founding of the Coalition of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados. The Coalition was the precursor to the Congress. The Coalition was able to assist in “creating the New Way, a way which helped Barbados to absorb the body blows of the structural adjustment programme of the International Monetary Fund without the blood-letting and civil disturbances which had characterised IMF interventions into third world economies. • Starting with unstructured meetings of Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford and members of his cabinet, with the leaders of Private Sector Agencies led by John Stanley Goddard, now Sir John, and the Coalition, now the CTUSAB, led by the BWU’s LeRoy Trotman, now Sir Roy, The New Way grew from strength to strength, entering the phase of the Foreign Exchange Committee, chaired by the Honourable Maurice King and now resting with a formal Social partnership for tripartite consultation and cooperation, chaired by Prime Minister Owen Arthur. There was suffering and economic and social dislocation; but this was significantly contained because of the efforts of the emerging social partnership, and particularly of the part played by the CTUSAB. Since it was the only Union dealing with the Private Sector, the role of the BWU assumed critical proportions. 58TH ANNUAL REPORT • The Executive Council dedicated the 58th Annual Report to the memory of the Right Excellent Sir Frank Leslie Walcott (1916 – 1999), General Secretary of the BWU from 1948 to 1991). The Report noted that the sixty year struggle of the Union and the

successes gained were inextricably bound up in the life and service of Sir Frank, and in his behalf, expressed appreciation to the Government and the nation, as a whole, for truly accepting the late Comrade, as an unquestionable National Hero. The Union recognised that the success gained under Sir Frank’s leadership must serve to inspire the Organisation as it sought to determine the precise nature of the role it had to play within the 21st Century to consolidate the gains made by Labour earlier and to prevent their theft in the new world order, driven by transnational capitalist greed. • AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Brother Stan Gacek visited the Barbados Workers’ Union 59TH ANNUAL REPORT • On May 1 an interim agreement was arrived at after the BWU suggested to the CTUSAB – and the CTUSAB received social partnership agreement that Protocol Three would be extended for a year and that, within that period the parties would examine how the instrument may be improved, made more functional and inclusive and become a regular recognizable part of the everyday culture of future social interaction. 60TH ANNUAL REPORT • The Union reported that the decade of the 1990s coincided with the period during which the International Employers’ Organisations had sought to reduce the international standards providing protection for workers, and the local employers’ bodies had sought to copy the international stance of their colleagues. It was a period when international financial institutions, using economic measures which failed to treat people as important considerations in national stabilisation and restructuring programmes, imposed their own brand of misery on the local population. It was for Barbados a period when true public spirited persons had to use their full creative genius to produce a new order, one that would see the country survive. New The Unionist | 43


bodies were formed, chief among them being the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, and new approaches were developed based on the recognition by the trade union that there could no longer be a relationship in labour management based on business as usual approaches. • The Union, in anticipation of the celebration of the BWU Diamond Jubilee, praised its framers Their Right Excellencies Sir Grantley Adams and Sir Hugh Springer for their handiwork in laying down a firm foundation which had permitted the Union to weather many bitter storms and yet remain intact. The Union acknowledged that many changes critical to Barbados had taken place over the sixty-year period, noting that the one which stood out most was the change in Union membership reflecting the shift of core employment over the years. For example, there was a reduction from more than twenty sugar factories and 20 000 sugar workers to three and possibly merely one factory shortly and just over 1000 registered sugar workers. 61ST ANNUAL REPORT • The period 1992-2002 represented a watershed in the history of the Barbados Workers’ Union and a successful transition from the leadership of the Rt. Excellent Sir Frank Walcott to that of his successor, General Secretary Le Roy Trotman. The phase of the Union’s development was rooted in Sir Frank’s call to “Face Reality”, and was forged into a change process which climaxed with the 60th Anniversary Celebrations when the Executive Council Anchored the Change Process. The outgoing decade witnessed global, regional and national changes which described as “epoch-making”. 62ND ANNUAL REPORT • The Executive Council congratulated Comrade LeRoy Trotman on his award of Knighthood of St. Andrew on November 30 2002. The Council was pleased that

44 | The Unionist

yet another of its leaders had been recognised nationally for his hard work and contribution to national development. Comrade Sir Roy Trotman became the third General Secretary of the BWU to be so honoured, following in the footsteps of Their Rt. Excellencies Sir Hugh Springer and Sir Frank Walcott. The Council also congratulated Sir Roy on his election as titular member of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation. Sir Roy is the first person from the Caribbean to be elected to this position. This position allows him to exercise an original vote. He is now an officer of that same Organisation (ILO) and is therefore one of four officers, including the Director General, who are responsible to the Governing Body for the smooth direction of this the oldest of the United Nations family and the only one which is not totally directed by Governments. 63RD ANNUAL REPORT (2004) • The centre piece of the Union’s efforts to strengthen its ties with other parties and interest groups which impact on the Barbadian masses is its involvement in the May Day 2004 Declaration. Working under the umbrella of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), the Union co-authored and cosponsored the May Day 2004 Declaration, which was agreed to and signed by the Social Partners as well as the Barbados Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, the Entertainers’ Union and the Church. The Government was also a prominent co-author and signatory at the level of the Prime Minister (Ag). 64TH ANNUAL REPORT (2005) • The Executive Council described the number of severance notices and notices of temporary lay-offs, which workers were receiving as reasons for national worry. The Union pointed out, however, that this concern had to be weighed against the good news of the reopening of the Barbados Hilton and the fact that some owners of


hotels had temporarily taken their plants out of the market for refurbishment for the 2007 and post-2007 tourism prospects. The report commented also on the decline of the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. 65TH ANNUAL REPORT (2006) • The Executive Council emphasised its desire to place the Union’s finances in a position that would enable the organisation to improve the delivery of service to its membership without having to resort borrowing or to relying on gratuities. One of the resolutions debated by the 65th Annual Delegates’ Conference called for an increase in Union dues, a decision which came against the background of the Union’s resolve to have three major areas undergo significant

budget adjustment to cover the next ten years, effective 1st January 2007. These had to do with the Union’s education thrust; its strike legal support and contingencies reserve fund and its administration support. In the area of education, it was the view of the Council that education and training needed an overlay of fresh ideas and approaches to excite and recapture members’ thrust for trade union and social development education and training, as well as to give the members a competitive edge within their enterprise and in the general labour market. The plan was to revise and revisit the Labour College’s structures and programmes, to include a “Solidarity House” component with a reformatted shop steward “How to” training component. It was envisaged that the Harmony Hall campus of

continued on page 51

1985: President General Comrade David Giles (2nd from the left) meets with the leadership of the Barbados Workers’ Union (l-r) Sir Frank Walcott (now Rt. Excellent), Robert Morris, Personal Assistant to the General Secretary, Evelyn Greaves, Principal of the Labour College and Leroy Trotman, (now Sir Roy), Director of Organising.

The Unionist | 45


At Chat with Comrade

Levere Richards

T

he following is an interview with him by Marsha Greenidge. Q: “Why did you join the staff of the Barbados Workers’ Union?”

A: It was very coincidental. I had introduced Evelyn Greaves, presently Barbados’ High Commissioner to Canada to the then General Secretary of the BWU, Comrade Frank Walcott (now late Rt. Excellent Sir Frank) at a party, when I was preparing to go to Canada. Sir Frank was the Parliamentary Representative for the parish of St. Peter, where I lived at the 46 | The Unionist

time. Evelyn and I had attended school together at Coleridge & Parry. I was aware that he had recently graduated from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus and that he may have been interested in working at the BWU. I knew that Sir Frank was looking for somebody to deal with the Union’s education programme and I invited him and Evelyn to the party. I introduced the two of them and they made arrangements that night to meet subsequently. To quote Mr. Walcott, “I was looking for a man, not a boy” and I introduced him to a boy but it was clear that their spirits met and Evelyn became an employee of the Union in charge of education.


I went to Canada, got married and was studying Hotel Management, intending to be a Hotel Manager. While working at the Hilton, I got a telephone call from Evelyn, and he informed me that there was a likely vacancy in the Union and whether I was interested in returning to Barbados. This was two years after I had emigrated; I had no intention then to return to Barbados. I was doing well at Ryerson University, enjoying life in Canada; my wife was well placed in a job in the Research Department in the Ministry of Labour and things were looking up. I spoke to her and she said she would have no problem and the rest is history. Frank Walcott came to Toronto, we met at the Roy York Hotel; he made an offer to me which was agreeable to me and I came home. I was appointed to the staff in May1970 as Island Supervisor and Public Relations Officer. I think Sir Frank more or less tabled the name of the position after the Jamaican model where at that time their Island Supervisor was Michael Manley. It was not an area in which I had given any indication that I wanted to enter; it just happened because of their feeling of my gregarious nature and the fact that they had a view that I might have been able to make some progress in the area of Organising, Collective Bargaining and representing the Union locally and internationally. I have not regretted it and I hope the Union has not regretted it either. Q: Can you tell us about some of your experiences with Sir Frank as you grew in the organisation? A: This could take a whole year. I enjoyed some excellent relations with Sir Frank as well as some rough and tough ones, but I think they all made me stronger. You would put a project to Sir Frank and he would pick it to pieces. You would sometimes feel demoralised but the next two hours or so he would call you, complement you in a “left-handed” way to show you that he wanted people who could think and operate on the basis that they had to face the challenges that would arise; so my times with Sir Frank were, as I said, rough - sometimes tough but in every occasion, there was something that you learnt form the engagement. On one occasion we were involved in a strike in Bridgetown and the lawyers and everybody advised Sir Frank

“not to march …..the police would lock you up”. Sir Frank said, “Ok, and when the police lock up, I would be the first to get lock up.” He was at the front of the march and there was no incident, no arrest. The lawyers had proper time to check, and recognised that the Public Order Act did not apply to the Trade Union Movement. It was a real learning experience over all the years in the Union – some good occasions, some bad occasions; hard work, long hours but I think at the end of the day, I have never yet woken up a morning and not felt like going to work. Everyday was different; everyday was interesting; I would do the same thing over again.” Q: Was returning to Barbados a major challenge? A: No! My wife and I had no children and therefore it was not a big uprooting. My mother and my brothers, with whom I am very close (the old lady is now gone) were happy that I was returning to Barbados, so I cannot say that there were any significant challenges. Once I had sat down and examined the offer that had been made including the kind of opportunity I would be given to represent workers and to make a substantial contribution to life in Barbados, I had no regrets and my wife had none. She came home and taught at St. Michael for many years; so I cannot say there was a big dislocation. I enjoyed my two years working in the Ministry of Health in the Payroll section in Toronto; I enjoyed my life with the group that we had in Toronto – Harold Hoyte, Glyne Murray, Chris Griffith, David Hope and Dougie Gay – we had a very close Barbadian community there. When I decided to come home, I counted my losses in terms of my studies but I had a different focus; I moved from management thinking to union thinking and those who were my friends have remained my friends after I became a fulltime officer of the Union …..And as I said before, I really have no regrets. Q: How did your social life impact on your trade union work? A: I believe there is more acceptance now that the union official can have relationships outside of the Union. When I joined the movement, The Unionist | 47


anytime that you appeared to be friendly with the employer, you were looked at with suspicion. This was encouraged by some of the staff at the Union at the time. Also, because of their limited outlook, you had situations where – I had a cousin who worked in the Hotel Industry in Barbados and some people were real suspicious. If I appeared to be friendly with him and had a drink with him, it was thought of as going over on the other side – being “soft”. Shop stewards got enough sense to recognise the worth in a person and the intent of a person and therefore, I always operated on the basis that you are my friend, but if I meet you across the table, I deal with you as “employer” and not as a friend. My very best friend, who is now unfortunately deceased, Bobby Norville, was in the Public Service in the Ministry of Transport & Works and I was working in the Accountant General’s Office. We “hung out” together and partied together and when I came back home to work at the Union, he was a Manager at Rayside and we continued to visit one another’s home. I am Godfather to two of his children and there was never a problem when it came to work between the two of us, but it never interfered with our friendship but some of the workers had that view. I recall when I represented workers at Banks Breweries; one of the workers actually reported me to the General Secretary and the Executive Council because there were claims about my relationship with Wes Hall. Wes Hall and I lived with a wall separating the two of us in Grazettes and I hold no apologies to the fact that Wes Hall was, and is my friend and Sir Frank Walcott supported the fact that I had a right to my own life and unless they could come with some detail or fact to suggest that had not been doing what I was suppose to do as a union officer, then the executive Council paid little attention to the claim that was made. I think that has changed quite a bit, I am not saying or suggesting that that situation disappeared completely, it is but nowhere near what it was when I came in 1970.

48 | The Unionist

Q: Even though you represent a wide cross section of workers you are perceived as the officer who deals with Hotel Workers. A: I think it is important to make it clear that there is a perception that I only deal with hotels. You have said hotels and other areas, and that is important because I represent workers over a wide cross section of the union membership. I represent workers in the Public Service, the Hotel Sector, the Rum Sector, the Construction Sector and I have represented workers in the Garment Sector – so there must not be the view that I represent workers only in the Hotel Sector because of my familiarity with that Sector and to be quite frank, my love for that Sector. I am looked upon as the person who knows most about the Hotel Sector in terms of the day-today activities and also the collective agreement, negotiations and service of the hotel agreement but that is not to suggest that it is my only area. I certainly have enjoyed working with the Hotels and my stints on the Barbados Tourist Board. I have represented Barbados overseas and locally, time and time again in promotional tours and in meetings on tourism matters, all of which I have enjoyed and I would do it again. I may have become well known in the Hotel Sector across the Caribbean because of my involvement with the International Union of Food, Agriculture and Hotel & Hospitality Workers (IUF), as Regional Secretary for 16 years. I believe that I have made some contribution to that Sector in this country. It is to my good fortune that the Barbados Workers’ Union recognises that Tourism plays an integral role in the economy of our country and it has therefore been easy for me to embrace that and do what I can in working on the behalf of the workers in various areas such as Hotel Workers’ Week, and representing Barbados and the Union on various bodies.


One of the benefits of working in the Trade union Movement is that it offers the opportunity - not as some people might think to jaunt, but - to visit other countries and to share in the life of the people of those countries, and hopefully, to impart some of your views to your colleagues whom you meet. I remember when I started going to Geneva, twenty years ago, I was a new boy on the block. Now, I know my way around Geneva quite well and these are some of the experiences that working with the Barbados Workers’ Union have afforded me and I would suggest to anybody who has the opportunity, who has the aptitude and who work hard, should get involved with the movement. Q: What are some of the highlights of your working life? A: There have been negatives and positives. I have been able to develop lasting friendships with colleagues like Sister Molly Burgess of Bermuda, whom I met the first week that I was

on the job, at a Women’s Seminar in Barbados. These friendships included Kertist Augustus of Dominica and Burns Bonadie of St. Vincent, whom I met way back in the early 70’s. There are instances that are too numerous to mention, but among those which stand out was a matter between myself and a Hotel Manager on the West Coast. It involved a strike. The matter actually went before the Law Courts but was subsequently withdrawn. I was accused of being involved in a fist fight, which was not true. There was another incident on the West Coast which went before the courts in Holetown. The manager involved was fined, the Government got $2000 but I was not awarded anything. I was pushed in my chest but got nothing. There were also incidences like the thee-week David Giles strike which I would never forget. Comrade Giles had been dismissed by the management of the Telephone Company (now BARTEL). During the one-day shut down of the country, people like Dr. Haynes who was the medical

The Unionist | 49


doctor for the Barbados Workers’ Union, and our attorney Maurice King (now Sir Maurice) openly supported the workers. We picketed the Company during the three weeks. Following several meetings under the chairmanship of the Minister of Labour, Comrade Giles was reinstated. In the recent past, Barbados has not had strikes of great significance but issues are still there and if it becomes necessary, in the latter days of my sojourn at the Barbados Workers Union, I would do it again. I have friends in the agricultural belt, like the Cumberbatch family; people you have met through the union movement but you gain their respect and they gain yours.

and Chester Jones as our standard bearers. We got to a point where we held dances and other events and then made the decision under my guidance to merge them into a Council of Hotel Workers a few years after, based on a suggestion from Gabby Scott, the grouping was extended to incorporate the Restaurant Workers as well. We have used this grouping to represent the industry. We have had the support of the employers and therefore this group meets the third Monday of every month and we get the cooperation for workers to be released without any lose in pay to attend the meetings. . ■

Time Well Spent….

Q: What About The Stalwarts? A: There were stalwarts like “Commander” who was a Steward at the cemetery for years. I remember that there was a protracted matter where the workers said they did not want to work on weekends anymore. Commander just said: “I ain’t burying no deads from now!” The soil technicians took that position and stuck with it and those were the days when shop stewards would give you their position and would stand by you 100% in furtherance of that which they wanted. Those were good days. We used to have meetings in various districts throughout the sugar belt when the crop was on and those were also good days, long days too. When I came on board one of the instructions I was given by Frank Walcott was that I should seek to organise councils, where there were like workers, they should meet under some known grouping. In as much as I have come out of the hotel industry, that was one of the ones that came readily to mind. Clifford Mayers and I decided that we would have the island divided in two. Clifford dealt with the South, from the ASTA Hotel to as far as Bathsheba and I took from the Hilton right up the West Coast. The group from the south used to meet at the Caribbee Hotel and the West used to meet at Trents, St. James. We had people like Byron Alleyne from Caribbee Hotel, a very strong shop steward and on the West Coast we had people like Wyett Roach 50 | The Unionist

by Nancy Solomon

I

was asked by one of my University colleagues recently to summarise my experience to date at the Barbados Workers’ Union and the first phrase that came to mind was “time well spent”. As part of the Masters programme in Labour and Employment Relations at the University of the West Indies-Cave Hill, each student is required to complete either a dissertation or a practicum. From the inception of the

continued on page 51


continued from page 50 programme I decided that I would pursue the option of the practicum, thereby requiring me to complete a three -month attachment at a host organisation. By the end of my first month at the UWI, there was no doubt in my mind that the Barbados Workers’ Union was the place I wanted to be. Prior to my first day of work, I got my first reality check as to what a regular day at the BWU would involve. At this meeting “Sir Roy” casually informed me of my hours of work, which would see my day starting at 8:30 a.m. and ending……, well to put it in his words “there is no fixed end time at the union”. By the end of my first week, I quickly came to understand why this was so as Committee/General Meetings were often held at 5 p.m. or later, in order to allow workers to get to “Solidarity House” on time from their respective workplaces. However this was not all that I had learnt by the end of that week; I had come to also appreciate the dynamic, fluid

and exciting nature of an Industrial Relations Officer’s job, as each negotiation, division and grievance is different. During my time at the BWU, I have been afforded the opportunity and exposure not only to be a part of various negotiations and grievance hearings but also to openly and freely contribute my own opinions and suggestions. The Union, as I have come to learn, is a multifaceted organisation with various functions and units, and this aspect of its function has contributed to its success and longevity as Barbados’ largest and longest standing trade union to date. A blueprint which in my view as a non-Barbadian citizen is one which trade unions regionally should seek to emulate. My experience thus far which includes, the opportunity to conduct part of a training programme at the Labour College to making submissions at negotiations and summarising the events of such, has truly been one which I will take with me as I move forward in the field of Industrial Relations.■

Some Highlights of the History of the BWU the College would become a hive of activity on an almost year-round basis. This was not be possible with the current level of staffing or the skills mix that currently existed and additional funds were needed in this area. The Executive Council was of the view that one-third of the agreed dues increase should be allocated to the revamped education programme.

• It is the view of the Council that in the first five years the Union should allocate onethird of the increase in building a healthy reserve fund. At the five –year review stage the allocation would be reduced to onesixth, thereby allowing a release of funds which would be applied to administration needs and would remove the need for any further request for the increase in dues in the medium term. ■

continued from page 45 The Unionist | 51


from the Desk of the General Secretary continued from page 14 That is one thing that resonated with me and still does because I can do the same thing now for those whom I supervise. The second thing that I noted from Sir Frank that really gave me some reason to think that the world is not all bad is that those employers said to Sir Frank, ‘you have an excellent young man here, well spoken, articulate and able to collect his thoughts and use them. We think you will have a great asset in this young man’. I don’t know if they were prophetic words or if they were a curse. But history has taught that I have moved to a different level. I think it is important to reflect on matters like this because the one thing that we have been taught as we have endeavoured to introduce new approaches is that, as strongly as you may feel about your problems, what you

52 | The Unionist

have to seek to do is to recognise that the other side also has a voice and also has a point of view. Secondly, you must realise that people may fight you very strongly on an issue, but it does not mean they wish to fight you personally. And thirdly, in many instances, both parties know that a certain kind of resolution has to come out of the dispute but the problem lies in being able to find a way to get to that particular point of resolution. Sometimes arrogance, or false belief, in our own self, or false pride is the barrier to the resolution. Sometimes, too, the problem is to be found in the false belief that the only important input into wealth creation is the money invested by the employer. This is the biggest falsehood which confronts us daily. It does irreparable harm to the Labour Market. The David Giles strike and the aftermath were strong lessons for the role which I have been required to fulfill in these later times. ■


70 Years & Growing Stronger

Historian and Teacher, Sir F.A. Hoyos (backing camera), Burns Bonadie, CCL Secretary Treasurer, Canon Harold Tudor, Chaplain, BWU and (Rt. Excellent Sir) Frank Walcott, BWU General Secretary at a May Day function at Solidarity House.

Henderson (Boycott) Clarke leads the BWU team against Wes Hall’s XI in the inaugurial BWU Labour College match at the Labour College in September, 1983

BWU General Secretary , Sir Roy Trotman addresses a May Day Thanksgiving Service. Seated (2nd from right) in the front seat is the late Dame Nita Barrow, Governor General. Others in picture (l-r) are President General David Giles, Comrade Robert Morris and the Governor General’s Aide-de-Camp.


The Unionist - Vol 15 No 10 2011  

A publication of the Barbados Workers' Union

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