Trade unionist Clifton Grant, who has spent more than 40 years helping aggrieved workers and advocating for their rights, is celebrating the latest honour being bestowed on him.
He is among 126 people, excluding uniformed groups, who will receive National Honours and Awards on National Heroes Day, October 19.
Grant will receive the Order of Distinction (OD) in the rank of Officer for his outstanding contribution.
“For me to be selected, it is something significant and it is going to motivate me to continue,” he said.
He recalled starting in 1973 as a departmental delegate of the University of the West Indies (UWI) to the University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU).
Grant worked his way up the ranks to become the Third Vice President of the UAWU in 1983.
He now holds the post of First Vice President.
Grant stated that, over the years, he has had the privilege of learning from trade unionists, including late former Prime Ministers Hugh Shearer and Michael Manley.
He also made mention of Hopeton Caven, Lloyd Goodleigh, Lascelles Beckford, Claude O’Regan, E. Lloyd Taylor, Clive Dobson, Professor Trevor Munroe and Senator Lambert Brown.
“My involvement in the trade union movement…puts me in a position to help someone else,” Grant noted.
“When somebody comes to you in trying times and you can help that person through that process and allow that person to continue their life, that is very very rewarding for me. That is what really motivates me.”
Over the years, Grant has made considerable contributions to many staff and management agreements, and has played an instrumental role in the establishment of the 40-hour workweek and overtime pay.
He noted: “The country is now enjoying a 40-hour workweek. In 1972 when I was just employed to (UWI), I was engaged in a three-week strike on the university campus that brought about the 40-hour workweek for the Jamaican worker. The issue got the attention of the then Government and allowed for workers to work less time during the week and, therefore, spend more time with their families.”
Grant was also involved in the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) discussions with the Government of Jamaica that resulted in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a four-year wage freeze, which was aimed at assisting the country through a fiscal challenge.
The veteran trade unionist recalled with pride, working alongside Michael Manley in bringing together the trade unions in the bauxite industry.
“We had that discussion that led to bringing the owners of the bauxite companies at that time together, and brought about the MOU that brought about some stability in the bauxite sector in terms of settings and conditions of employment. These were significant times of contribution not only to my union but to the country.”
Grant further stated that he is committed to sharing his knowledge with other trade union leaders and delegates in Jamaica and the wider region.
More than 3,000 people have benefited directly from the training he provided through various seminars in Jamaica, Guyana, Belize and other countries.
The trade unionist’s involvement in the region extends beyond training delegates. He also represents the interests of workers regionally, at international trade union associations.
Grant is serving his second term as the Regional Secretary for the IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations). He is the second person to hold the position for the Caribbean. The IUF is a federation spanning more than 120 countries, with more than 10 million workers represented.
Grant stated that, going forward, trade unions need to remain focused. He added: “[They should] keep the workers’ agenda going in terms of ensuring that their rights are protected, because that is why workers elect us – to protect their rights”.
Editorial Note: The information used to produce this story was provided by the state-owned Jamaica Information Service.
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