“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.” – Hebrews 11:3
The 28th day of May each year has been a significant date for me and my sister for all of our lives. In recent years, when Mummy was a resident of a nursing home, on this day we made an effort to celebrate with family and friends the anniversary of our mother’s birth much to her comfort and joy. She passed away on January 26, 2013, so this is the second year that there will be no celebration with her being the physical centre of attention.
Had she survived until Wednesday this week she would have been a centenarian. It is with fond memories of love that we celebrate anyway. One important legacy from which we, her grandchildren and great grandchildren still benefit, directly or indirectly, is the foundation of faith which she, my father and maternal grandfather imparted to us at an early age. As the Daily Word reminds us: “Our faith is strong and active. Our faith is a vital, vibrant part of our spiritual life. Through faith, we know that we are whole and well, no matter the situation. Through faith, we recognize our lives overflowing with God’s good and blessed with prosperity”.
Last week’s column addressed the topic “Restoring Health to Trade Unions” and a specific recommendation was that “Caribbean Trade unions should shift gears and become consultants and advisers to the workers to increase labour productivity while brokering the relationship with employers for fair compensation”.
The responses, even though not many, were very profound. There was a request to reproduce the article in an online publication. A retired but active Barbadian businessman commented: “I think this is an important topic. We need to help the unions help Barbados become more productive”.
Then there was a regional perspective which I have reproduced in its entirety:
“This piece on the role of Trade Unions (TUs) is a very timely one. I agree with Mr. Wayne Cadogan that any current ‘advocacy and agitation’ initiative by most TU Leaders, is to secure their own vested interests – ensuring their extended tenure and securing increasing emoluments for themselves by pegging the TU workers’ dues to the increases in workers’ income, which the TU leaders have ‘grandfathered’ with employers.
“While I share your opinion in calling for ‘A strategic re-visioning of the focus of TUs to the new perspective’ which you have outlined, I have to state that in my assessment (based for example, on the annual May Day ‘more of the same’ utterances), many of the current Caribbean TU leaders are incapable of applying their God-given grey matter to either evolve ‘A new and relevant perspective focused on promoting increased labour productivity, quality and standards of excellence or indeed to become consultants and advisers to workers to induce greater national competitiveness and economic growth’.
“Most TU leaders that I know are aging sinecures, fossilised in their thinking and dated in their lack of familiarity with modern methodologies in production-line processes and the application of appropriate technology. I may come over as uncharitable but the lack of traction by civil society in ensuring that it is a true partner in the development process, can be attributed to the complacency of the TUs, the tunnel vision of the churches (preaching to the converted), the political alignments of many in the Judiciary and Magistracy, and the unpreparedness of Private Sector ‘Captains of Industry’ to challenge the political decision-makers for fear of losing their duty-free and other benefits – dangled as carrots to ensure compliance/acquiescence. TUs should also be subject to membership and management audits, and performance evaluation against indicators of transparency, and accountability to their constituencies”.
Then, from a civil servant: “I just read your article entitled ‘Restoring Health to Trade Unions’ and I must say I was delighted to know there is someone else who is honest enough to suggest that change is necessary in this grouping. I must state my wholehearted support for your views as expressed therein as having joined a trade union in 2009, I recognised that the system was broken and in dire need of fixing. In addition, I felt it was shortsighted of my union to only seek pay raises when my working conditions were less than favourable. Once again, thank you for your thoughts. They were very much appreciated”.
There is much dialogue in the Caribbean and beyond as to the effective impact of trade unions as a social partner. It was reported last week in the press that a trade unionist had commented: “Trade unions in Barbados are too closely affiliated with the two major political parties”. He has distanced his organisation from the other bargaining bodies for Barbadian workers which he accused of seriously reneging on their duties to represent workers. He complained: “They are supposed to represent the workers but they are simply not doing it”.
My advice to trade unions is that, as they change their role and re-vision their future, they should seek comfort in the following Daily Word advice: “Faith implies action to boldly step forward, move on, or stand strong, regardless of the challenge. If my faith wavers, I turn within in prayer. A brief reconnection with God brings me the assurance I need to continue on. I energize my faith through prayer and meditation, staying centred in the Power that is always with me, directing my steps. My faith is steady and strong”.
Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET. Columns are archived at www.cbetmodel.org and www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com.