The trade union movement in Barbados benefits from the voluntary services of those men and women who commit themselves to service. These persons often do so at great sacrifice to themselves and their family. They go beyond the call of duty, and direct their efforts in ensuring that the interest of working class people is represented. Looking after the social welfare of the masses becomes their business.
These selfish champions work tirelessly at trying to promote the empowerment of working class people, the improving of their social status, championing the cause for fairness, justice, equality of treatment, and the elimination of exploitation and discrimination.
The contributions of many of these persons go unnoticed. Unlike politicians or persons with political allegiance, these volunteers are not the favoured ones for accolades. This assertion might well be contested in some quarters, but any such contention that speaks to the contrary, will certainly not be able to override the historical evidence.
Such evidence will show that across the English speaking Caribbean, they are a number of prominent trade union leaders who are the recipients of national recognition. The evidence will also support the fact that most of them were in some way associated with elective politics.
Those less prominent individuals, who volunteer their service and time to the trade union movement, are equally as deserving of recognition. Unlike serving politicians in the Upper and Lower House of Parliament, shop stewards and elected officers of trade unions and staff associations in Barbados are not paid.
The society therefore owes them a debt of gratitude, and it is left to find ways of expressing thanks and appreciation for the efforts of these faithful servants. As is often said, “charity begins at home”. Hence, it is expected that the organisations which such persons serve/represent, would rise to the occasion to honour its distinguish servants.
It is unrealistic to believe that all persons would be recipients of the highest national honours. It however would be encouraging if our communities play a greater role in identifying and recommending persons who are worthy of being honoured. This is a role that the recently established Constituency Council could play.
They are well placed to undertake the required extensive research to ensure that those who are most deserving, are recommended for national recognition. This may prove to be a challenge as some may wish to question the integrity of the process under the Constituency Council. It would be an indictment and travesty, if partisan political support was a consideration in the making of any determination.
Development of the nation
Many citizens contribute in various ways to the development of the nation. In that given number, there are those who make an indelible contribution. It is quite unfortunate that in many instances, these persons are not recipients of their bouquets when they are alive, active and in the pink of health. Some pass from this life, disenchanted, frustrated, disappointed and even bitter over the fact that their efforts seemed not to have been recognized and/or appreciated.
As a society, we need to do better. It cannot appear that recognition at the highest level is the preserve for those in academia, politics, business and in the echelons of society.
Those who have given yeomen and distinguished service in public life at whatever level, who are known for their experience, expertise, professionalism and knowledge, should be amongst those to be considered for appointments to areas of national service, such as Justice of the Peace. The 2012 Calypso King, Red Plastic Bag, in one of his earlier calypsoes, reminded Barbadians that “We should know who our heroes are”.
* Dennis De Peiza is a Labour Management Consultant with Regional Management Services Inc.
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