Sir Roy’s contribution outstanding
IT CAN be fittingly described as the end of an era. The retirement of Sir Roy Trotman as general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) has ended a career which saw him dominate the local trade union scene over the past two decades. The name Trotman and the labour movement became synonymous.
Over the years Sir Roy has become battled-scarred. This has been evident in the many fights he had with many an umbrella private sector group or individual company. The hoteliers and the sugar industry officials can tell of their clashes with him, as can Cable & Wireless, Government and countless others.
He has won many of his battles but has spectacularly lost some as well. We doubt he will ever forget his bruising and unsuccessful clashes against the Royal Shop and Sandy Lane Hotel. These would have left deep scars on an otherwise outstanding career in which he generally got his way.
It is generally accepted that Sir Roy was such a towering figure that the union’s all-important decision-making executive council over the years appeared to have taken guidance from him. It is clear he totally dominated events at Solidarity House. That sense of the all-important, all-powerful leader, which the union has thrown up from its very beginning, stayed throughout Sir Roy’s tenure.
Like those before him, he had successfully twinned the job of trade unionist and that of politician, having had the distinction of being an elected member and now serving as an appointed Independent senator. Over the years he has also had the honour of leading the Caribbean Congress of Labour and being the first black president of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, as well as the founder/president of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados. For all his outstanding achievements, he was knighted in 2002. Quite a résumé.
Not all his actions have met with universal acceptance. The threat of islandwide industrial action when locked in a dispute did not win friends. The stronghold he had over the Bridgetown Port division was not admired by some. There will be much for historians to assess concerning Sir Roy’s contribution to this island’s national development as they reflect on his tenure at the BWU.
Despite his wealth of knowledge and experience, this is the hour and time for Sir Roy to exit the stage. There could not be a better time. He can still make a contribution – elsewhere. The new general secretary needs her space to carry the organisation forward, imposing her own vision and values. The mission will not change.
Barbados thanks Sir Roy for his outstanding contribution to the island’s development. But change is inevitable.