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Senator Sir Roy Trotman Retires
Thursday, 24 July 2014 15:57

Another chapter in the history of the Barbados Workers’ Union  (B.W.U.) will be closed on Saturday, September 6, 2014, the final day of its 73rd Annual Delegates’ Conference when Senator Sir Roy Trotman, KA demits office after twenty-two years in the leadership role of General Secretary and forty-three years as an officer of the Union.

Sir Roy, the third person to hold the post of general secretary of the B.W.U., succeeded the late Rt. Excellent Sir Frank Leslie Walcott, in 1992; Sir Frank was general secretary from 1948 to 1991. Sir Frank’s predecessor in office, the late Rt. Excellent Sir Hugh Worrell Springer, served from 1941 until 1947 when he left to become the first Registrar of the University College of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.

Sir Roy’s outstanding trade union career at the local, regional and international levels have followed in the progression of the exceptional groundwork that was laid by his iconic predecessors in the Union, namely, its first President General, Rt. Excellent Sir Grantley Herbert Adams, first General Secretary, Rt. Excellent Sir Hugh and Rt. Excellent Sir Frank, who distinguished themselves in diverse fields such as industrial relations, politics and education.

Born in the idyllic village of Bathsheba, St. Joseph, Sir Roy, over the past two decades, brought acclaim to the B.W.U., Barbados, and to the Hemisphere, by serving the workers of the world at the apex, as President of the Brussels-based 160-million member International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the first person of African descent to do so, and as Chairperson (President) of the Workers’ Group, Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Geneva, also the first non European to hold that post.

Since 1971, when he joined the staff of the B.W.U., Sir Roy has worked consistently, steadily and with commitment to raise the standard of living of those who have been marginalised, proscribed and excluded from our society. He has used ‘the lance of education’ and ‘the sword of bargaining’ in his attempt at prevailing against the mighty forces which confronted him overtime.

His steady progress through St. Elizabeth Boys’ School, in the picturesque, rural parish of St. Joseph, and St. Matthias Boys’ and Boys’ Foundation School, Christ Church, laid a solid foundation for his chosen vocation as teacher and labour leader. He grasped the opportunity of tertiary education and read for a BA degree in English, History and Economics from the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, whence he graduated in 1969, and completed a Masters in Labour Education from Rutgers University, USA, in 1976.

His professional life started with teaching in 1962 and he served with distinction as a pedagogue and administrator, at St. Leonard’s Boys’, Parkinson Memorial Secondary, Boys’ Foundation, Modern High and St. Anthony’s High, the latter as headmaster, before taking the lead in organising a division of workers from among the teachers with whom he worked at the Modern High School. He had been an activist and radical from university days and these characteristics earmarked him for his future vocation.

In 1971, he was invited by the then Frank Walcott to be his personal assistant, and moved through the upper levels of the Union’s administrative structure, being promoted Deputy General Secretary/Director of Organisation in 1980.

Sir Roy was a natural for this position as it provided the opportunity for his verbal reasoning, debating, elocutionary and analytical skills during negotiations, and his organisation and leadership skills during the many campaigns he engaged in with success. Perhaps more than anything else, he relished the task of getting back a job for someone who was wrongfully dismisses, or getting a promotion for someone whose progress was wrongfully hindered.

It was natural when Sir Frank retired in 1991, after having given 46 years of valiant service to the House of Labour that the baton was passed to Sir Roy as the undoubted senior then on staff in the Union with an unquestionable record of leadership. Two years before Sir Frank’s retirement, Sir Roy branched out into the Caribbean and was elected President of the Caribbean Congress of Labour, the beginning of a significant phase of regional and international action.

Like his predecessors in office, National Heroes, Rt. Excellent Sir Hugh Springer and Rt. Sir Frank Walcott, Sir Roy was elected to the House of Assembly where he served the constituents of St. Michael Central, with distinction. His parting from politics came as a result of a principled stand at a time when politics seemed to stand in the way of the undivided attention he wished to give to the workers’ cause.

Sir Roy’s exit from politics catapulted him into a new trajectory in his trade union career by being elected in 2002 as Chairman of the Workers’ Group of the Governing Body of the ILO, becoming the first non-European to be elected to this high and honourable position. On this path, Sir Roy was appointed as a Senator of the Barbados Parliament, thus giving the workers a voice in that illustrious Chamber.

Senator Sir Roy has shone at the national, regional and international levels. At the national level, he was President and founder/member of Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, the predecessor of the Coalition of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, Co-Vice Chair, Barbados Foreign Exchange Committee (1992-1994), Workers’ Chair- Barbados Social Partnership, Workers’ Chair C-1444 Committee, member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Committee, Member – National Insurance Board, Member – National Productivity Board, Member – Coordinating Committee, National Initiative for Service Excellence (NISE), Member – Securities Commission and Founder and Chairman of the United Commercial Autoworks Limited, Member of the Haynes’ Commission on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Member of the UWI, Cave Hill Campus Council, the Board of the Barbados National Bank, and the National Committee of Eminent Persons to Coordinate National Reconciliation. .

At the regional, he served as President of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) (1989-1995).

At the international level, Senator Trotman was elected President of the ICFTU in 1992, and was re-elected in 1996, an indication of the high esteem in which he was held. He elected, voluntarily, not to serve as President beyond two terms of four years each, but was so acclaimed for his leadership that he was the choice by acclamation for the Chair of the ICFTU Millennium Committee, which was charged with the responsibility of determining new strategies and visions for Labour into the new century.

To those who were aware of Senator Sir Roy Trotman’s contribution at the ILO Headquarters as Chairperson of the Sub-Committees on (a) Tripartite Consultation, (b) The Abolition of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, and (c) Health and Safety in Agriculture, his elevation to the apex of the ILO could not be a surprise.

Yet while we marvel at how the regional ad international bodies have lionised Sir Roy, we wonder if we kept his light at home too much under the bushel.

Sir Roy is married to Margaret Lady Trotman and they are the parents of Paula, a medical doctor and Lesley, an attorney at law.

The entire Barbados Workers’ Union family wishes him a long life and healthy life and hopes that he will be able, during his retirement to make good use of his hobbies, which are reading, music and (watching) sports.



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