by Edward Hutcheson
Union leaders have to live in so many worlds and wear so many hats, that they are more qualified than the best politician when it comes to knowing what is “on the table”. With so much information at their disposal it would be expected that they would also be qualified to see beyond the spin that politicians use to manipulate their support every five years. In years past, a union leader would have been eminently qualified for a less demanding political office; but the current Minister of Labour may have been the last person to walk through that door. It seems like all that came after him are intentionally being held at bay by the powers that be, and some of the present union leaders are showing their ambivalence by the demands that they are making on the government and their affiliates.
Can we blame them? The promises made by the politicians to the Unions and their leaders before the last election are serving as a backdrop for the present skirmishes that we see and this new breed of Union leadership will have to step back to see what is really at stake. The B.U.T., B.C.P.O.U. and most of their associates have been used very effectively by successive governments in “fire bun” exercises and the decision of the government to settle the outstanding payment issues with the B.U.T. is seen by some to promote the ongoing division among Unions that incumbent political leadership are always happy about. The change in the leadership of the local Union Congress should have been seen as an opportunity for local Unions to get together and have a reflective conclave among themselves instead allowing those who got theirs to separate from those who are still waiting. It is said that those who make the most noise get the most attention and this could be true in this instance, but it really does not make a difference if the Public Treasury is used as a tool of separation among those have more to gain by exercising their will collectively.
Have we reached the place where what is good for Unionism is good for the country? Apparently not. The tools of separation are still at work. The leader of the Teacher’s Union may come to regret the cost of the “advances” she has made this week. I know that the payments and concessions are timely for her members and they are needed; but all that stuff about the Union being able to hold meetings on school premises during a time when school is in session may be an indicator of how misguided well-meaning leadership can be. There are bigger fish to fry and our national pre-occupation with what politicians can do for us, will be our undoing. Politicians rob Peter to pay Paul, but in the political world this robbery takes the form of marginalization and Bahamians are so messed up when it comes to you keeping a promise that you have made. Perhaps the job of the Congress is now clearer, and Union representation must be seen for what it’s future could be; that of an effective third arm that balances and constrains the sometimes devilish activities of Government and the private sector. The change in leadership in the Congress may also be an indicator that the old ways are being pushed aside; which may be good for the country but bad news for politicians.
December 9, 2013