Thursday, April 25, 2024

ON REFLECTION: Sir Roy issue – no better time

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Much ink has been spilled over the unfortunate “Egyptian Jew” comment directed by Barbados Workers’ Union general secretary Sir Roy Trotman in the Diamonds International case, but it could not have come at a better time than now, when the economic recession is taking a toll on proper industrial relations in the country.
LIME, Almond Resorts, Alexandra, Diamonds International and others simmering just below surface level are consuming the thoughts of most Barbadians while taxing the resources, experience and capacity of the country’s labour unions.
Knowing Sir Roy as a professional in his field, any perceived attempt by him to deride or insult an adversary on the basis of race or ethnicity doesn’t fit well with an erudite man of his standing, who could have reprimanded the mentioned employer in a diplomatic and even more effective manner.
So while the comment made at the May Day rally sounded ominously racist, anyone who has seen the long-standing general secretary in the field would not genuinely draw an inference of personal malice from his statement.
What Sir Roy has been known to do, however, is to call a spade a spade. If, in assessing a situation, he sees attempts to hold employees under siege, delaying tactics, wilful efforts to scuttle the objective of harmony and productivity in the workplace, he will call you out.
The LIME case, which is expected to end today with the establishing of a time frame for the pay increase to workers, is a case in point. Sir Roy realized early in the game an obvious attempt to draw out the matter.
In fact, in my own perusal of the facts, it was clear what the Prime Minister’s decision was – annoyingly so – and anyone would have been at an instant loss to decipher the reason behind any lack of understanding of such a crystal clear decision by the one who holds the highest office in this land. But this is the silly season.
Why create delay and suspicion among already aggrieved workers on behalf of a highly profitable and greedy conglomerate which, based on precedent, sees Mr Alex McDonald in pretty much the same way as it sees its line staff? Who on earth is he defending?
As far as Diamonds International is concerned, the BWU general secretary, in addressing the sacking of some of its workers and the matter of an expectant mother on the job, made a nexus with the red carpet treatment given to foreign investors; but he should have gone a little farther.
He should have taken out his indignation on the ease with which these wealthy foreigners from the Far East and beyond are allowed to borrow grand sums from institutions that show a rigorous and almost interrogative face to the average black Barbadian potential investor.
This is why most Barbadians continue to be hewers of wood and drawers of water; it has nothing to do with ability but a system that frustrates most of us while wholeheartedly embracing the strangers among us.
Sir Roy and indeed the tripartite Social Partnership of labour, the private sector and Government should have sounded on May Day, the workers’ day, a warning to these financial institutions that show a glaring distrust toward the average Barbadian, especially in a time when Government and some veteran businesspeople are calling on Barbadians to show forth their entrepreneurial spirit.
What is there to fuel this entrepreneurial spirit when some commercial banks will lend millions to “investors” with no loyalty whatsoever to Barbados, but put on the cold mask of due diligence when a black Barbadian seeks start-up capital for a business or any investment?
No wonder the BWU leader is angry and frustrated to the point where he makes such an unfortunate remark, which is seen as being threatening and racially motivated while being wrapped in a blanket of fear and doubts about future foreign investment.
Most of those commenting should be concerned about the lack of investment and the wherewithal to invest in ourselves.
Furthermore, the average Barbadian worker is under threat and under siege at this time, mainly because of the recession and some employers’ use of the recession as an excuse to fire and hire, while maintaining lofty payouts to their minions.
And if the workers’ sole bastion of defence – outside of last-ditch expensive recourse to the law courts – is to be discredited because of a faux pas resulting from slightly misdirected anger on the part of a veteran trade unionist, then Barbados has taken one step forward and three backward.

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