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A true friend of the shipping industry - A tribute to the late Alvin Sinclair

Published:Tuesday | March 8, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The shipping industry has been sent reeling with news of the passing of yet another union stalwart who worked tirelessly to secure the stability and continued viability of the Port of Kingston.

Colleagues and friends woke up yesterday to the news that vice-president of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and a key member of the Joint Industrial Council (JIC) Alvin Sinclair had passed away after a long illness. Among them were members of the Shipping Association of Jamaica (SAJ), whose interactions with Sinclair spanned many decades through his work with the Council.

The JIC is a forum established in 1952 between the management of key players in the shipping industry and four trade unions representing port workers, one of which was the BITU. Throughout its 60-year history, members of the JIC, especially Sinclair, have worked assiduously to improve the working conditions at the Port of Kingston by introducing modern technology that has helped to enhance Kingston's competitiveness.

"Sinclair was a true friend of the industry. He was a worthy workers advocate and friend over these many years. He served with passion at JIC in the interest of the workers, as well as the interest of what is good for the Port of Kingston and Jamaica," said SAJ president Kim Clarke.

A second-generation leader within the shipping industry, Clarke noted that his father, Hylton Clarke, always spoke highly of Sinclair, describing him as a conscientious, dedicated trade unionist whose commitment to the sector was demonstrated time and time again by his assistance in maintaining a stable labour environment at the Port of Kingston.



Other members of the managing committee and members of the SAJ have also been sharing recollections of their interactions with Sinclair. MC member Michael Bernard, who also spoke on behalf of the Jamaica Fruit Group of Companies, said:

"We join with the SAJ in expressing our condolences at the passing of Alvin Sinclair, BITU senior vice-president. He represented the workers' interests very well, and also was amenable to reason and embraced changes when the Port of Kingston needed to respond in the interest of Jamaica. We shall sorely miss his advocacy and personality," he noted.

Tributes to the late union stalwart have also come from other union leaders with ties to the sector. Danny Roberts, head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute, spoke highly Sinclair's work:

"Alvin Sinclair was a man of conviction who dedicated himself to the task at hand. His contribution to the development and stability of the industrial relations climate in the shipping industry in particular cannot be overstated. Alvin brought a dignified and forthright posture to the cut and thrust of the collective bargaining process and stood out because of his honest and sincere leadership. He stood on principle and has made an immeasurable contribution to the advancement of relations in the shipping industry."

Others pointed to the determination of the late Sinclair, who was among the architects of key and historic labour agreements on the port, the most recent being the four-year labour agreement arrived at in 2012. This agreement was designed to ensure a stable industrial relations climate on the port in light of preparations for Jamaica becoming a logistics hub. Then deputy island supervisor of the BITU, Sinclair said that he was determined to do all he could to ensure a stable industrial-relations climate at the port in light of preparations for Jamaica participating in the benefits from the reopening of the expanded Panama Canal, which is set to happen this year.

"It is historic in the sense that we have never signed a four-year agreement prior to now," Sinclair said then. "But we did it deliberately to send a signal to the rest of the world that the port will remain, basically, stable for the next four years. The rates are known and the Joint Industrial Council is in place to deal with other industrial-relations issues."

Alvin Henry, who served as general manager at the SAJ for 20 years until 2001, recalled, too, the pivotal role Sinclair played in securing the landmark 1998 industrial relations agreement that transformed working conditions on the port.

He described Sinclair's strong advocacy for his fellow union members on all matters affecting their working conditions:

"He had a strong belief in discussing with union members matters of great importance to their well-being. He would go to the SAJ Recruiting Centre every week and sit with the workers and discuss issues with them," he recalled.

The SAJ wishes to convey its deep sorrow to the bereaved family of the late trade unionist, including his son, Robert Sinclair, who is also a member of the SAJ family.