The overwhelming sense of satisfaction that trade unionist Clifton Grant gets from helping aggrieved workers and advocating for their rights is what keeps him motivated.
“My involvement in the trade union movement… puts me in a position to help someone else. 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,” he tells JIS News.
“That is what really motivates me,” he adds.
The veteran trade unionist, with more than 40 years of service and experience in the field, will be among 126 persons, excluding uniformed groups, who will be presented with National Honours and Awards on National Heroes Day, Monday (October 19).
He will receive the Order of Distinction (OD) in the rank of Officer for his outstanding contribution.
Having started as a departmental delegate of the University of the West Indies (UWI) to the University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU) in 1973, Mr. Grant worked his way up the ranks to become the Third Vice President of the UAWU in 1983, and now holds the post of First Vice President.
Over the years, he has made considerable contributions to many staff and management agreements and played an instrumental role in the establishment of the 40-hour workweek and overtime pay.
“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,” he shares with JIS News.
Mr. 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, to assist the country through a fiscal challenge.
He says he has had the privilege of learning from great trade unionists such as late former Prime Ministers Hugh Shearer and Michael Manley, Hopeton Caven, Lloyd Goodleigh, Lascelles Beckford, Claude O’Regan, E. Lloyd Taylor, Clive Dobson, Professor Trevor Munroe and Senator Lambert Brown.
He recalls 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,” Mr. Grant tells JIS News.
Mr. Grant values the experience gained from working with these stalwarts and is committed to sharing his knowledge with other trade union leaders and delegates in Jamaica and the wider region.
More than 3,000 persons have directly benefited from training with Mr. Grant through countless seminars in Jamaica, Guyana, Belize and other regional territories.
The trade unionist’s involvement in the region extends beyond training delegates, as he also represents the interests of workers regionally, at international trade union associations.
Mr. Grant is currently serving his second term as the Regional Secretary for the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), and is the second person to hold the position for the Caribbean region. The IUF is a federation spanning over 120 countries with more than 10 million workers represented.
Mr. Grant tells JIS that he is grateful to be selected for a national honour, but notes that his reward comes from helping others through representation.
“For me to be selected, it is something significant and it is going to motivate me to continue,” he notes.
Mr. Grant says the trade union movement plays a significant role in Jamaica’s development, and as he commits to continue sharing his knowledge with trade union delegates and leaders, he charges members to remember their role.
He says that, going forward, trade unions need to remain focused and “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”.
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this year’s National Honours and Awards will be produced as a made-for-television event and broadcast on national television and social media.