Veteran trade unionist Sir Roy Trotman has charged that Government has shown scant regard for the skills of labour officers, forcing these officers leave the Labour Department.
The 44-year veteran who retired last year as head of the Barbados Workers Union (BWWU) said labour officers are essential to successful conciliation efforts in disputes between employees and employers, but that successive Governments have downplayed their abilities.
As a result, large numbers of labour officers have retired in their prime, Sir Roy told those gathered at the Steel Shed, Queen’s Park this week for a panel discussion on the role and impact of the Labour Department. The discussion formed part of activities marking the 75th anniversary of the department.
“Many labour officers who saw a career as conciliators, and who were doing a tremendous job found that the Government of the day, the Government of Barbados, no party, did not recognize the special skills that we have to put into the role of the Labour Department.
“Therefore many people left the Labour Department. One is now Registrar at the university, one at a private company that used to be in Broad Street, now somewhere up by Bussa [Haggat Hall],” he said, citing a few examples of highly skilled former labour officers.
Sir Roy conceded that some left because of better opportunities elsewhere, however he noted “the thing about it is that they wanted to go forward but there were aspects of the treatment in the Labour Department which caused Labour Officers to feel that the significant role they have to play in the building of the resources to make Barbados a First World country, that they were not being recognized and they had to go like other people and follow their personal development goals,” he told the audience.
The former Member of Parliament and current independent senator spoke of a perception that a minister is given the labour portfolio “because they didn’t like him”.
“It doesn’t mean that the person has no talent, but it means that in the eyes of the public, Labour does not get the same level of prestige accorded in other ministries.”
Other members of the panel included president of the Barbados Association of Retired Persons Ed Bushell, who is also a former council member of the Barbados Workers Union; retired Labour College principal, Ulric Sealy, and Employment Relations specialist Elsworth Young.
The panel was moderated by retired president of the National Union of Public Workers Walter Maloney. (GA)