Editorial

NWU debacle: Norman and Michael Manley must be turning in their graves!

Thursday, February 06, 2014    

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NATIONAL Hero Norman Manley and his son Mr Michael Manley must be turning in their graves.

For what is happening inside the National Workers' Union (NWU), which Father Manley founded in April 1952 and of which his son became president after his passing, is nothing short of utter disgrace.

As we reported on Tuesday, Mr Vincent Morrison, a most distinguished trade unionist, has been unceremoniously removed from the presidency of the NWU.

Recall that Mr Morrison has been with the union for the past 45 years and has served as president since 2006. He is also the island supervisor of the union, a position he had before being elected president.

In a most vulgar display of what we can only deem to be spite, the NWU wasted no time in sending Mr Morrison on retirement immediately after he marked his 65th birthday on Sunday this week.

The feeble attempt by Mr Granville Valentine, the union's general secretary, to explain away this decision raises more questions than answers, given that Mr Morrison has told us that he has been barred from entering the union's head office at East Street in downtown Kingston.

What makes the treatment meted out to Mr Morrison so questionable is the fact that previous presidents and island supervisors of the union have been allowed to serve way past the retirement age.

For instance, Mr Clive Dobson, the man whom Mr Morrison succeeded, was 71 years old when he relinquished the presidency. And even after that Mr Dobson was retained in an advisory role.

The question, therefore, is what is at the root of this haste to kick Mr Morrison out of the union?

It is a question that the NWU needs to answer truthfully, for the impression that we have formed from what is now happening does not speak well for an organisation founded on the principle of protecting the rights of individuals.

The current events, we hold, do not do justice to the memory of the many outstanding Jamaicans who served the union over its 61 years of existence. These are people who have contributed to improving the welfare of the workers of Jamaica; people who shared Mr Norman Manley's vision of a better Jamaica.

Certainly, they deserve better than the mess that is being made of one of this country's most important institutions.

Moreover, we find it curious that the People's National Party (PNP), to which the NWU is affiliated, has maintained such a stony silence. Has the party lost interest in the union?

A further sign of the decay is the report that the NWU affiliate Union of Clerical Administrative and Supervisory Employees (UCASE) has announced it is ending its affiliation, in a dispute with Mr Valentine. The NWU general secretary will have to explain, and explain hard, why we should be believe he is the innocent party when he is the common factor in all these latest conflicts.

But, perhaps it is a sign of the times. Some trade unionists still hold that unions are as relevant as ever today, and that all that is required is a change of roles. But what is happening at the NWU could well be a sign that trade unionism, as we know it, is in its final death throes.

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