DJLT should stand in my shoes

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December 21, 2012

Dear Sir,

The recent comments of Royal Gazette columnist DJLT in which he cited so-called Trade Union mentality and the reluctance of Trade Unions to address clear misbehaviour on the part of employees who happen to be union members; suggest to me that the writer should have been better informed when it comes to the activities of the union on the job.

For example one of the chief mechanisms used in the workplace when a collected agreement is in place is the setting up of regular meetings that take place between management and union representatives usually shop stewards. Commonly called JC meetings or join consultations meetings, these never hit the headlines because problems on the job or potential labour disputes are often nipped in the bud before they developed into full blown labour disruptions through negotiations between the two parties.

I don’t know if DJLT has ever had the experience of being a union shop steward on the job or even talked to such a person? But I can give him the benefit of my experience of acting in such a role. I was a union shop steward for over 20 years. To get an understanding of how I used to handle it, I was given the dubious nick name of ‘Not a leg to stand on’, by my work colleagues as their union representative.

Here is a typical example of how this would take place and how I got that name. I would get the call that there is a labour dispute at hand. Upon arriving on the job site I would get the management side of the labour problem then I would hear the worker’s side of things; then I would make a decision as to who was in the right. If the worker is judged to be wrong I had no hesitation of telling him or her so. Or if the management was in the wrong than the negotiations would begin with the view of arriving at a solution. But it has not always been that smooth, I recall one time being fired as the union representative as the worker thought I should take his side even though in this case he was clearly wrong. Of course this was his right just as it is with a lawyer whose client no longer wants him to be his representative and has the right to dismiss him. The other role I was bound to play is to attempt to mitigate any penalty the worker was subject to suffer if he was found to be in the wrong and management was right. I did that successfully on a number of occasions.

That was how I handled things as a union representative on the job. What the world sees outside of labour relations is the labour conflicts that break out from time to time.

The true union mentality is not the negative aspects of labour relations as described by DJLT in his opinion and which gives great comfort to trade union detractors but more akin to the experience I have laid out above.

ALVIN WILLIAMS

Warwick

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Published Jan 12, 2013 at 8:02 am (Updated Jan 12, 2013 at 8:01 am)

DJLT should stand in my shoes

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