The hard case of two roles of one voice
I note with concern your letter of 13th February, 2012, carrying the signatures of those workers who wish to resign from the union and I daresay from UCAL. – Sir Roy Trotman, general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union and UCAL’s chairman, in his February 16 letter of response to workers of the autoworks company, who have withdrawn their membership from the BWU.
IT?IS?NO?UNDERSTATEMENT Sir Roy’s part response here to United Commercial Autoworks Limited employees is loaded with intrigue. Why would it be thought that workers withholding membership from a union are automatically surrendering their jobs to the company the union represented? The UCAL?staff are as mystified as they are angry.
“We see this letter as a threat to our jobs when [Sir Roy] says that resigning from the union membership could also affect our daily bread and butter.
“He has to explain to the public what he means by that,” said one worker.
But Sir Roy, who has resigned as UCAL chairman, does not seem inclined to offer any explanation immediately. Still, the unusual circumstances cry out for public clarification.
What power indeed does the Barbados Workers’ Union have in determining who works at or with UCAL? And how efficacious was Sir Roy as chairman and bargaining agent all at the same time?
One angry UCAL worker argued that since the start of the company, in partnership with the BWU, in 1997, “nothing” had been done about the “welfare” of the 100 plus staff.
Another accused the union of not looking into the workers’ concerns.
“The last time we got a raise was in 2004 when they gave us a five per cent of a promised ten per cent increase.
Since then, despite several complaints, not a single meeting has been held to discuss outstanding matters.”
We take it that the they to whom these employees refer are the obvious management, the board under the chairmanship of Sir Roy, and partner the BWU under the direction of the said Sir Roy.
There is no doubt this partnership was born of noble intent; but clearly things have gone awry. It must have become difficult over time for the chairman and union spokesman to speak as one person, in one voice.
The charge against UCAL management and the BWU is that neither has initiated or secured a raise for the employees of the autoworks since 2004, and that few meetings there have been since then to deal with “outstanding matters”. It seems like a circumstance Sir Roy himself would not tolerate from another company.
After all, here we have the consummate trade unionist holding LIME’s management to the spear for the alleged failure to negotiate in good faith, and pursuing the employees’ interest to the fullest. No lines blurred here.
There is honour yet in Sir Roy’s resignation as UCAL chairman, and there may be hope still of reconciliation to the workers’ benefit. Time only will tell.