EDITORIAL: Beyond tough rhetoric
Sat, May 12, 2012 - 12:00 AM
It is widely accepted, and even appreciated, that with industrial relations issues a trade union would use very vigorous language to represent the interests of its membership.
However, the public also believes there is a great difference between tough rhetoric and offensive mouthings, a distinction brought to mind by long-serving general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), Sir Roy Trotman, in his address to an assembly of workers celebrating their annual day of solidarity, May Day.
Castigating Diamonds International, the upmarket jewellery store chain, for what he alleged was the wholesale dismissal of 20 employees for exploring the possibility of setting up a bargaining unit, Trotman not only labelled the reported sackings “reprehensible”, but called the head of the business an “Egyptian Jew”.
While Diamonds International has vigorously refuted both the number of and reasons for the firings, public attention has quite understandably been focused on what could most charitably be described as Sir Roy’s unfortunate mouthings, with most people being shocked that a trade unionist of such local, regional and international experience and standing could have stumbled so badly.
His faux pas has been made all the more egregious by the fact that he is not a rookie trade unionist, far less an ordinary one, but one who until quite recently had for several years headed the Social Partnership, the alliance of labour, Government and the private sector intended to work together to put the national interest first.
Barbadians have found it very difficult to understand what might have driven a public figure who normally carefully weighs every word of his public pronouncements to go to the extreme of referring to a person’s nationality and ethnicity.
One theory is that Trotman’s overreaction could have been triggered by the painful realization that many years afterwards, two other high-profile cases of dismissed workers at the Sandy Lane Hotel and at the Royal Shop, another jewellery establishment, remain unresolved in the BWU’s favour since the employees have not been reinstated.
Where his poor choice of language is concerned, it is now left to Sir Roy to find a suitable way and language to reassure Barbadians and others observing from abroad that he is prepared to re-establish his bona fides as the broad-minded, mature, tolerant and sophisticated leader and man he had long been thought to be.
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