Toni Moore has some big shoes to fill.
She is following in the footsteps of the iconic Sir Grantley Adams, Sir Hugh Springer, Sir Frank Leslie Walcott and her immediate predecessor Sir Roy Trotman as leader of the island’s largest trade union.
The statue, status and national recognition of those former leaders of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) could be daunting for the 38-year-old incoming general secretary whose name may not ring the kind of bells as her predecessors did before they took up the mantle.
Her ascension comes at a time when the reputation and relevance of the trade union movement in Barbados are under attack from various social commentators and politicians, and when at least one battle against Government retrenchment is ongoing.
But even before she tackles those issues, Moore is being asked to address a perceived rift between her and longstanding union officer, Veronica Griffith.
Although the BWU’s Executive Council, the union’s highest decision-making body, had designated Moore to succeed Sir Roy, Griffith threw her hat in the election ring shortly before the annual general conference last Saturday.
Moore, who won the election against Griffith 99 to 70, was questioned about the move and told reporters that there was no bad blood between she and her colleague.
“Veronica and I have worked well from the time I joined the union on April 1, 2004 and I think the mistake that many have made since it was confirmed that Veronica was also going to be contesting the post of general secretary, is to equate it to some disunity or lack of harmony within the Barbados Workers’ Union,” she responded.
“When we had a press conference some weeks ago I indicated that, on the contrary, it should be seen as a tremendous moment in the history of the Barbados Workers’ Union when, even though the Council had designated its person, there are still persons like Veronica who will step up to the plate and say ‘I am ready to serve if the conference will give me the chance’.”
Moore admits that she was initially “somewhat surprised” Griffith came forward, but said she was “truly challenged” and she felt better taking over the BWU having faced a challenger.
If it was unanimous, she said, she “wouldn’t know exactly where the membership [stood]”.
“I think it is always a good thing not only to know where your support lies, but understand that you still have those other persons, that although they might be willing to work with you, did not see you as the preferred choice. I think that is what keeps us grounded, keeps us humble, and keeps us all the more challenged and determined to give of your all at all times.”
Moore believes that although she has been with the union “a mere quarter of the period that my colleague Veronica, who challenged me for the position, has been here, I think that I have worked sufficiently well with those divisions which I have been assigned, and have established a significant relationship with the membership to the extent that they can be confident that I can learn quickly because . . . it will be a learning curve”.
And she is certain she can learn quickly enough.
Moore also looks forward to stamping her own leadership style although stressing she was not trying to wipe out the legacy of those who have gone before.
“I can build on [Sir Roy’s] foundation and that of Sir Frank, Sir Hugh and the others who have contributed, and establish for myself the kind of platform to continue the legacy that they have started.”