The history and development of the Trade Union Movement in Grenada must be researched, documented and be included in the curriculum of our schools. The Trade Union Movement itself ought to ensure that Trade Union history becomes a main subject at Educational Seminars.
Knowing our history is very important in order to ensure a strong and vibrant movement. We must know where we came from in order to determine where we intend to go and how to get there.
In general the membership of the seven Trade Unions in Grenada seems to have taken a back seat. This is a worrying situation because it gives the leadership a freehand to take or not to take action on issues.
Members will have to accept responsibility if the top down approach takes precedence over the accepted bottom up method that is the hallmark of the Labour Movement the world over in dealing with the day to day Trade Union issues.
As a result of the lack of Trade Union Education in Schools we have thousands of potential employees entering the Labour force each year with little or no knowledge of what the Movement is all about and what are their rights and duties as workers. In fact, the average worker knows very little about their Union’s history and in some cases their leaders are no better off.
Who are the men and women that left their footprints in the sands of time in the struggles to bring the Labour Movement to where it is today and the benefits that workers now enjoy?
The 1951 Revolution led by Eric Gairy brought major gains in the areas of wages and hours of work for Agricultural workers.
The Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) was formed one hundred years ago on June 20, 1913, the very first Trade Union to be formed in Grenada. If the membership remembered this important landmark, they were rather quiet about it.
T.A. Marryshow, Marasse Donavan and George Otway formed the Grenada Association in 1920 and led the struggle that brought about Trade Union recognition in Grenada in 1933.
On March 13, 1955, the General Workers’ Union and the Grenada Workers Union formed the Grenada Trade Union Council in the town of Gouyave, St. John. Its first President was Clarence Ferguson.
An educational booklet was produced by the Grenada Trade Union Council in 1991 which covers some aspects of our Trade Union history but there is a need to further develop this document.
There should be a Policy in how we honour our passed Trade Union Heroes. The passing of Lucy Agnes Stroude for example on 3rd August 2013 (Buried on 14th August, 2013) appeared to be one of the best kept secrets within the Commercial and Industrial Workers’ Union (CIWU), the Union she helped to establish.
Lucy as she was affectionately called by Trade Union colleagues was a founding member of CIWU. As a member of the Clerks Union, a branch of the Grenada Workers’ Union, she played an active role in the formation of a breakaway faction led by Eric Pierre that subsequently formed the Commercial and Industrial Workers’ Union on 7th December, 1956.
She led the fund raising committee of the Union in those days together with Gloria St. Bernard, another foundation member.
In 1984, she was elected 1st Vice President of CIWU, the highest elected position ever to be held by a woman in that organisation. It is therefore not surprising that Lucy Stroude is featured prominently in the book: “IN THE SPIRIT OF BUTLER.”
Lucy was not given the honour and recognition she deserved from CIWU at her funeral. The presence of a few Executive members, brief acknowledgement by the President, wreathes followed by a “happy hour” showed poor judgement on the part of the leadership.
The entire Executive of fifteen together with at least one Shop Steward from each of the over thirty work centres represented by the Union should have been in attendance. The Union could have requested time off which is a normal practice. The Union banner was not there and it appears that a black flag at the CIWU Headquarters was not erected. Members should see to it that something like this never happens again.
When the total and comprehensive history of the Labour Movement in Grenada is finally written, the works and contribution of Women must be a prominent feature.
Let us all remember our Trade Union history and give our Trade Union stalwarts the honour they deserve.
Former President of CIWU