Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Dennis DePeiza
Those who lead and manage within the labour movement, are expected to be at the forefront in leading the workers’ cause. It can be a lonely place at the top for the leaders and managers within the movement, as they often face and feel the pressures of the demands being placed on them. It is not uncommon for them to be ridicule, sometimes abused, insulted and castigated. They can be accused of micro managing and even being soft.
The conversation which evolves around the leadership of trade unions, tends to be directed at those who find themselves in leadership or management roles. There is the tendency to overlook the fact that there are members of the Executive Boards, Councils or Committees who are entrusted to share the responsibility of decision-making, execution and ultimately providing representation. While these may operate at the hierarchy of the trade union, there are ably supported by the shop stewards who manage things at the level of the workplace.
Shop stewards are charged with the awesome responsibility of organizing, and serve the purpose of being the conduit between staff and management, and being the liaison between the members and the union’s leadership and management. Shop stewards are an integral part of trade union management. They are usually referred to as the watchdogs for the organisation.
Shops stewards are an asset to trade unions. There are called upon to play many roles, starting with that of being the representative and voice of the workers at the workplace. The expansive roles include that of being a negotiator, advisor, counsellor, motivator and coordinator.
The role played as a problem-solver in bringing about resolutions and heading off potential conflict, is also a part of the heavy responsibility to be assumed.
Those who lead and manage within the labour movement, are expected to be at the forefront in leading the workers’ cause.
It can be a lonely place at the top for the leaders and managers within the movement, as they often face and feel the pressures of the demands being placed on them. It is not uncommon for them to be ridicule, sometimes abused, insulted and castigated. They can be accused of micro managing and even being soft.
It is to be expected that individuals in a voluntary environment who offer themselves for election to office, do so with the understanding that there are making a commitment to serve the organization. It is unfortunate that some would offer themselves and yet find it difficult to execute the duties entrusted to them, or moreover, find it difficult to participate in the work and activities of the organisation.
Where there is a lack of support forthcoming from those who are elected to share the responsibilities of leadership and management, it simply makes life stressful for the dedicated and committed few. This pattern of behaviour now seems to be a growing aspect of the culture of organisations. This makes a mockery of what is known as a team effort. This is not good for the proper functioning of any organisation.
Those who sit on the fence and those who fail to discharge their duties and obligations, ought to recognize that this undermines any consolidation in the leadership and management of the organisation. This opens the door for manipulation and micromanagement to raise its ugly head. The sad part of this tale, is that those who fail to accept their responsibility and to function, are often the first to criticise, find fault, hurl accusations and demand answers.
This type of behaviour is reprehensible, as those who are guilty as charged, only short change the organisation. It raises questions as to what was their motivation for offering themselves to serve in the first place. Some may speculate that it was for the purpose of being self-serving, while others may suggest that there were other external motivating factors. Whatever the reason, the fact that these persons are elected through the democratic process, negates whatever speculation persons may have. What matters most, would be the behaviour and actions of the nonfunctioning individuals. It can be concluded that all this combines to stifle the growth and development of organisations, and moreover, can lead to division and rancour within them.
Accounting for one’s stewardship as a leader or manager of a trade union, civil society organisation and or political party, is not only desirable but is a requirement. It is for the membership to ensure that those elected to serve, account for their stewardship. If it is that this does not matter, and the membership is prepared to reelect persons whose performance does not merit their reelection to office, then it is more than likely that some serious problems will be experienced in leadership and management of organisations.
For those who are aspiring to seek election to office within the trade union movement, it is for them to understand that when as union leaders they fail or neglect their responsibilities, the price to pay for this, is the lost of their union position. If those who are elected or appointed to serve are to take their roles and responsibilities seriously, there ought to be an awareness that by their inaction and failure to function, that this does more harm than good to promoting, representing and advancing the trade union agenda.
Labour leaders should accepted without question, that if trade unions are to progress in meeting their mandates, aims and objectives, then greater attention must be paid to developing a more cooperative leadership and management.
Dennis DePeiza is a labour & employee relations consultant, Regional Management Services Inc. Visit our Website: www.regionalmanagement services.com