Our London Letter
Mauritius Times 60 Years Ago
2nd Year No 67 – Friday 18th November 1955
Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it. — R. Frost
There is a strong resemblance between Barbados and Mauritius. The economy of both islands rests on sugar; and both islands are very densely populated. Overpopulation is, indeed, as much a problem in Barbados as it is in Mauritius. The Labour Government, headed by Mr Grantley Adams, has, however, introduced government-sponsored family planning to deal with the overpopulation threat. There has been little opposition to this move from the Churches since Barbados is a predominantly Protestant island and the Roman Catholic Church is weak.
Most of Barbados’ workers are engaged in some aspect of the sugar industry -growing, transporting, etc. There is only one union of any size in the island; and only one other at all. The two unions are the General Workers’ Union and the Clerks’ Union. The former has 17,000 members; the latter, 600. There are four employers’ associations.
The BGWU dates from 1941. In three years it had a membership of 3,700; nowadays, it has 17,000 members, organised into ‘divisions’ of the union. Each division caters for one occupational group; the structure resembles that of the UK Transport & General Workers’ Union, with its industrial ‘sections’. The Union has considerable status with the employers and the Department of Labour. It negotiates on behalf of all members with all employers, and has made substantial gains for its members since 1941. “The scope and standard of recent major collective agreements” negotiated by the BGWU, says one critic, “are a credit to the negotiators of the union.”
The industrial relations structure in Barbados is very advanced, as befits a colony with a highly-developed Constitution and a Labour Government whose leaders have been schooled in the trade union movement. The industrial relations structure has developed only since 1940 when the Department of Labour was first formed. Now, there is collective bargaining, with conciliation and arbitration machinery. So successful has this industrial relations structure been that it has fully borne out the Royal Commission on the West Indies which in its Report (1945) looked forward to the day when trade unions can “play a decisive part in the regulation of wages and conditions of employment”.
There is little doubt that the wisdom of the workers of Barbados in preferring one big union to a number of small and probably ineffective unions has been proved and amply justified by the high regard in which the BGWU, is held and by the successful outcome of its negotiations with the employers’ associations.
Industrially as well as constitutionally, therefore, we may claim that what is sauce for the Barbadian goose is sauce also for the Mauritian gander.
* * *
(Our readers may remember that when Mr Fenner Brockway left Mauritius a European planter from Kenya refused to travel on the same plane by which Mr Brockway was travelling. We reproduce below the pungent comments of the Daily Mirror of the 3rd October last on the incident).
‘There is never any shortage of candidates for the silly stakes.
Winners by a thick head today are the Mc Laglen family from Kenya – led by farmer Clifford Mc Laglen.
When Mr Mc Laglen flew to London over the week-end he refused to travel on the same aeroplane as Mr Fenner Brockway, the Labour MP.
Mr Brockway has been an outspoken critic of affairs in Kenya. Mr Mc Laglen, a Kenya white settler, resents this criticism.
The result was that Fenner Brockway, making no fuss, transferred to another aeroplane and left the Mc Laglens to contemplate their own virtue in doing him one in the eye.
We hope that they also contemplated their own stupidity.
But it is not enough to say that the Mc Laglens are stupid.
When intolerance reaches this level it becomes vicious and unbearable.
The Mc Laglens exhibit the kind of colonial conduct which this country vehemently condemns. It is not the kind of action calculated to help the struggle to bring harmony between black and white in Kenya.
If anybody should have been turfed off a plane to London it should have been the Mc Laglens.
Their narrow-mindedness belongs to the dark ages.’
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