The purpose of industrial unions is to advocate on behalf of working people to keep them safe, negotiate wages and benefits they deserve and put them in a position to enjoy a higher quality of life. Let’s establish that initially.
The most effective union leaders are those who are in constant search for new ways to involve members as active participants in conducting the union’s business. And, these leaders should be upstanding in their endeavors and should come from a background where they have already proven themselves to be strong, honest and tenacious individuals.
With that said, from time to time I examine the current leaders of unions in this country and feel a strong sense of disappointment towards many of them. Sometimes I wonder who these people are and on what qualities were they elected?
As much as people love to wag their tongues and fingers at Belinda Wilson, Bahamas Union of Teachers (B.U.T) and Kyle Wilson, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (B.E.W.U), criticizing their style of leadership, we can truly say they are not weak and petty and they get the needs of their members met. If not feared, they are respected by the employer.
Gone are the days when all union leaders appeared to have the leadership and trade unionist know how of D. Shane Gibson who tenaciously led the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (B.C.P.O.U). In him we saw strength, fearlessness, serious knowledge of labor laws, the ability to address the press intelligently and the ability to sit at a table and negotiate on behalf of his members for best results.
What I am seeing now is a far cry from those days when all union leaders were respected and not just a few. In my journalistic career, I’ve witnessed a prime minister being whisked into Parliament under a shower of beer and peanut shells just after barricades were dropped unceremoniously and a massive crowd of unionists unleashed on the Square known as Rawson.
I’ve also witnessed unionists’ dreams of a “black Christmas” come to fruition and the Minister of Works being referred to as “Black Out Peet” as the power across our islands went “poof” during the yuletide season leaving everyone dining by candlelight and making merry while feeling the “silent and dark power” of the union.
I think it’s pathetic for modern day union leaders to show up and demand workers to walk off their jobs prematurely and then spew utter garbage to the press without checking facts. If the union is happily receiving what it wants for its members and an issue arises, then it’s polite and professional to discuss the matter with the employer first and watch for results over a period, rather than jumping the gun by pulling staff off the job and as Bahamians say, “talkin’ fool”.
“Be quiet when you have nothing to say” is common advice given to people, especially people who are not very bright. Some union leaders should take this advice to heart.
For the most part, this current administration seems to be working well with unions, making sure that their membership is taken care of. This is why it enrages me when union leaders, in recent times, thought it necessary to remove workers from the job, prematurely, in an attempt to grandstand and attempt to prove their relevance.
I keep my ears to the ground at all times and this attempt to embarrass the employer, according to the public and some of the membership, made those union leaders look quite foolish and their “demonstration” baseless.
That whole ordeal drew something else to mind, though. Why are some of these people elected? Did they have great campaigners who possessed the “gift of gab”? Did they promise their membership a really sweet deal? Or were their predecessors that awful that their bid for leadership was ushered in on a wave of hope for better?
Whatever the reason, the membership of trade unions should always seek to elect people who represent them with intelligence. Well that’s how I see it, anyway.
“AS I SEE IT” DISCLAIMER – The views and opinions represented in this column, “As I See It” belong to the columnist and do not necessarily represent those of the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas. The views and opinions expressed in the column are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual. This column is for informational purposes only.