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Editorial: Lloyd Goodleigh: a man ahead of his movement

Published:Wednesday | December 16, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Lloyd Goodleigh was of a cohort later than Hopeton Caven and Clive Dobson, but his death on Monday marked another move in the transition of the third generation of modern Jamaica's labour leaders at a time when trade unions are seeking a new, relevant definition in the context of 21st-century globalisation. Sadly, Mr Goodleigh is now lost to this process.

Like Messrs Caven and Dobson, who died in October in their 80s, Mr Goodleigh was a product of political unionism. Mr Caven headed the Trade Union Congress (TUC), which was once an associate of the People's National Party (PNP) until its left-wing leaders broke with the party in 1952 over ideological differences.

That fracture was the inspiration for the formation, that same year, of the National Workers' Union (NWU), into which Mr Goodleigh was lured 16 years later by Michael Manley, and which he later served as general secretary. Clive Dobson was his president. In time, Mr Caven healed with the PNP, and like Messrs Dobson and Goodleigh, represented the party in the Jamaican Senate.

In that sense, there could hardly be a question about where Mr Goodleigh's political allegiance lay. Yet, at a time when trade unions would calculate the strategic value of their activities to their political affiliates, even as they represented the interests of workers, he was never a hard partisan. Indeed, when in the 1970s, Mr Manley, by now Jamaica's prime minister, spearheaded, with Norwegian funding, the creation of the Joint Trade Union Research and Development Centre - later the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) - Mr Goodleigh was among those who offered the intellectual basis for its relevance and activities. He later served as the JCTU's president.

The fact is that Lloyd Goodleigh, a graduate of Howard University in the United Sates, was never any less passionate about the rights of Jamaican and Caribbean workers than his more bellicose and apparently more aggressive contemporaries. Suggestions to the contrary would be a superficial perspective and a misunderstanding of the man.


Cerebral approach


Where he was different was in the cerebral approach he brought to worker-management relations and the functioning of the labour market. That has been more apparent in recent decades as the free market gained ascendancy, globalisation accelerated, and labour found itself in retreat.

In this new environment, Mr Goodleigh's notion that capital and labour need not be always at daggers drawn has gained traction - as did his arguments in favour of labour-market reforms that are coincidental to the interests of either side, as well as the wider economy.

Indeed, his ideas found some expression in the multisectoral National Partnership Council, as well as in the recently established Labour Market Reform Commission, at which he served as national coordinator.

As Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller observed, Mr Goodleigh "constantly and unequivocally articulated a vision that placed education, training and improved worker productivity and engagement as a central pillar of national development and economic growth".

In a sense, Lloyd Goodleigh was ahead of a time in Jamaican trade unionism, which for too long, was stuck in paradigms that flowed from the experiences of the 1930s. They could yet find renewed relevance on a foundation of his vision.