Notes From a Native Son: How Sir Roy, Out of Step with his Times, is Damaging the Nation

Hal Austin

Hal Austin

Once again the nation has been treated to a childish outburst from Sir Roy Trotman, the grandfather of Barbadian trade unionism, over an issue that is as relevant to a nation up to its neck in economic problems as it is for a shopper forced to join the back of the queue. We all know, as a nation, that Sir Roy, who ought to be the elder statesman of industrial relations, is capable of crying like a naughty baby who has thrown his toy out of the pram. To my mind, he has no sense of statesmanship or of good leadership and should be sent out to graze by his members.

The Case:
Sir Roy got his smalls in a twist when, it is alleged, members of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations voted to deny the Barbados Workers’ Union, of which he is general secretary, a place as part of the delegation to the International Labour Organisation meeting.
It appears, even to those of us not connected with the discussions, that it was a snub, whether intended or not, a small matter that Sir Roy could have drawn to the associate members’ attention.

But, true to form (I even get the impression he did not consult his executive colleagues, and indeed a move of such magnitude should be voted on by all the union’s members) he decided he would walk out. It is consistent with the impression I have of him as a poor negotiator – it is his way or no way.

I can well imagine that Sir Roy, a big fish in a small pond, likes the idea of parading on the global stage, even if it is a peripheral organisation like the ILO, but to call it quits because he did not get a pick is ridiculous.
Once again it is Sir Roy Trotman and the Barbados Workers’ Union, once a proud representative organisation of ordinary working people against the battalions of the plantation owners and commodity importers, who, it is clear to my mind, is now blackmailing his colleagues in the movement.

There was a time when the BWU, under the leadership of Walcott and Blunt, had no more ambition than to represent the lighter men, warehouse workers and the others who slaved all day on the wharf shipping crocus bags of sugar and other goods to and from ships moored in Carlisle Bay. It was hard work and those of us, young men and women, who witnessed that pressure could only dream of never having to work so physically hard for a living, however dignified.

Walcott, Blunt and their colleagues, in a modest office at the junction of Nelson and Fairchild Streets, would provide the leadership that the union needed against unscrupulous importers and their under-managers. It was trade unionism at its best. Workers were happy to save with the union and every May 1, along with their families, will go off to King George park to have a wonderful day out. It was one of the joys of my pre-teen years.

Analysis and Conclusion:
Sir Roy is consistently proving himself to the biggest stumbling block to the progress of trade unionism in Barbados and, in many eyes, runs the BWU like it is his fiefdom. He comes over as a bitter and twisted man, who has no effective grasp of reality but sees only his deeply flawed selfish ends and his flawed pride. To any ordinary person, his is a myopic vision that does not even see clearly the long-term benefits of his active and former members, but does everything to alienate those young men and women who should naturally be his future member.

Sir Roy should be the elderly statesman of Barbadian – nay, Caribbean – trade unionism, instead he is the angry, grumpy old man who appears to be contorted with illusions of grandeur and like King Canute, wants to hold back the hands of time. He is from another age, a time when post-holders just had to turn up at work and the people would genuflect to them; he is from an age when our leaders did not have to justify their positions or authority; a time when just having a title or a paper qualification meant you were the top of the tree.

These are different times, when every one of us must justify our place in the order of things, no matter who we are. Once we have become redundant, exhausted our relevance, then we should quietly leave the stage to the next generation. Sir Roy has overstayed his welcome and should take a bow and exit the stage. As long as he heads the BWU he will be seen as the symbol of everything that is holding Barbados back from progressing in to the 21st century. Sometimes his authoritarian nature prevents people who would normally want to throw their weight behind organised Barbadian labour to back away. His behaviour on this issue, even if he has a moral case, is juvenile and unbecoming, and certainly betrays his position as the elder statesman of Barbadian trade unionism. He should walk away with quiet dignity and let the people, in moments of reflection, realise what they had done.

But, equally, the undignified desire by the minister to publicly apologise to a man who is beside himself with his own self-importance demeans that high office of state. What Sir Roy should be doing is mentoring the minister, sitting her down and offering mature advice about the need for a job creation programme, about the sad state of the economy, and how Barbados could re-direct its industrial relations and trade unions policies to go beyond the old and obsolete collective bargaining principles to include representation for working people from the cradle to the grave. This is far more important than attending a junket with the ILO, which can only add to his deluded sense of self-importance which makes very little contribution to the betterment of Barbadian organised workers. Instead, Sir Roy has become a political autistic with a vocabulary that has stopped at pay rise and strike, there is no middle way. Given that the minister of finance and the governor of the central bank have lost control of the economic debate, it is an ideal opportunity for the trade union movement to take control and dominate that intellectual public space. This is what their members expect, sound leadership, positive guidance, clear and dynamic policies.

Sir Roy is picking a fight over trivia because he has no ideas, his intellectual cupboard is empty. In the final analysis, Sir Roy will find himself on the wrong side of history, defending the middle aged and old in their cosy jobs while the future of the nation, those aged from 16-25 walk the streets and hang out on the blocks without jobs, training or a decent education. Rightfully, while defending his current members from exploitation, he should be creating a level playing field for his future member s by showing them that the union cares. At some point members of his union must call a halt to this ego-driven Shakespearean drama and rid the nation of this menace. Someone must step up to the plate and, metaphorically speaking, be the Brutus to Trotman’s Caesar. One good thing about Sir Roy’s behaviour is that he once more has shown the idiocy of the so-called Social Partnership, and the lack of basic trust at its very core.

Sir Roy has a blind side when it comes to calculating social dividends, as he demonstrates by avoiding taking part in wider public debates preferring to simply sit on his pile in Hindsbury Road and pretend all is right with the world. It pains me to say it, but as a nation we deserve the leaders we get. For the good of Barbadian trade unionism and of the membership of the BWU, he should go.

129 thoughts on “Notes From a Native Son: How Sir Roy, Out of Step with his Times, is Damaging the Nation

  1. Pat
    U think the man really want to be going to court every week at that stage of his life in relation to those housing projects his lordshit wrapped the Union up in? From what I understand, Rockie must have be tired of going to work everyday and having to be introduced to a new member of staff, who was hired for his department.
    When you consider that, the housing mess that deserves a commission of inquiry and the fact that his replacement was really anxious to take over responsibility for the licquor cabinet keys, lordshit’s increasingly poor judgement, and oother things I don’t think Mr Rock [gentleman] deserves to have tied to his name. Why NOT?!

    You know Pat, within 3 months, BWU has lost Deputy GS. If you look at it otherwise, within 1 year they have lost 4 + 1 Industrial Relations Officer.

  2. @Well Well
    You talking about using up entertainment allowances for What!? My friend you may have just stumble on the real reason there is so much lethargy in the private sector, the unionized private sector at that.
    If only you see the cases and cases of big mouth licquors and lunch cakes and deep fried chicken that gets ‘donated’ in the spirit of partnership.
    So maybe we will see some sliming down since they have withdrawn from this partnership farce!

  3. Pooch, they are all just a bunch of lickerish, self-serving sexist pigs…………..and it appears the only way a female will be allowed to rise to the status of attending those ILO functions is if she is literally in bed with one of the creeps……………sickening and about time it ends, i see Arthur is standing in the corner of Trotman, he too has been accused multiple times in the past of sexism, Bajan men wake up, you are killing the island…………………

  4. Well Well
    Did you read Yamma’s list carefully; most of the names are female. I saw Toni Moore recruiting some men one day and she seemed to be very confident about her tight jean pants ability to recruit.

  5. Well Well
    We have some professional women in Barbados who to climb the ladder or short circuit the game; pelt their business all round the place; they become sexual samples for the delight of these so called powerful men. When these women reach where they think they should be, they then cry wolf about women’s rights and respecting women. We the outside idiots then pick up their fire rage. This is why it is so difficult to find women of ability among this who of who of Barbados. It is common practice for most of them to hone that “pelt around their business” at whatever university they would have gone to. And in my time I have seen bright bright women but very few in Barbados. So AC you are in very good company.

  6. Lemmie the women who pelt around dem business must have men who pelt around dem business too. It takes two to pelt nuh?

  7. Lemuel……………….most of the females on that list is just window dressing…………the men need to finally grow some morals and encourage the females instead of enabling them with the sex for positions scam, it is still nothing more or less than prostitution.

  8. Island
    That is true but do not play that game and then expect to treated as a queen. These women are just as bad as the men who engage in this behavior and they do not understand the pressure they put the other young women who seek to follow them and attain what they did. I am a very very firm believer that young women and young men should not have to be pelting around their business to make a contribution to Barbados, but given the standard that is being set, we may see more and more of it.

    I had a friend who was just out of school; his department was headed by a homosexual; some of the new officers had to go home; the ones that stayed were “pelting their business” with the head of the department. That was in the 70s, and that is why I would always have a serious difficulty with Peter Bullham and Mia.

  9. Lemmie there have always been leeches in positions hetero or homo and they continue to prey on the innocent. Unless proper legislation can be enforced this will continue to happen. Women and men MUST have standards and be willing to walk away and expose these predators. I have walked away from some of these stinking people who thought that I was needy when they come trying to see if I would bite their bait. The problem is many do not have any standards at all.

    • @islandgal

      You can have all the legislation you want and we should but the willingness of immoral employees to go the ‘business’ route will always be with us. It is a beast we have to manage.

  10. Lemuel………………..the prostitution for positions is now part of the culture, the political landscape and the society as a whole, no amount of laws or legislation will change that ugly scenario…………from what i am hearing from my elders, and these are people who no longer have a reason to lie, it started in the political arena and exploded with ‘independence’ not that that would have stopped anything but i too am concerned that Mia (i really don’t like interfering in people’s sex lives) is aspiring to one day be PM when it is alleged that as AG the registry got filled with her personal whatevers although the person who was in charge at the time objected to the assignments of several of her whatevers. That begs the question, what will she do as PM??

  11. I see Trotman in todays nation trivializing rape……………these clowns do have a nerve.

  12. @Well Well
    I thought so too, of his comments. I thought it very disappointing and cowardly that no one- not the President of NOW (National Organisation of Women, not any of the proponents of women’s protection against abuse came forward to renounce these yet again reckless statement made from a MayDay stage.
    And interestingly enough, there is a senior member of staff at BWU who up to about 2 years ago, was the Pres. of NOW.

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