Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | September 28, 2009
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HONOURING EXCELLENCE...Danny Roberts' fighting spirit

Danny Roberts, president of the Union of Clerical, Administrative and Supervisory Employees, vice-president of the National Workers Union and vice-president of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions. - Peta-Gaye Clachar/Freelance Photographer

Fighting for the rights of workers may not have been the first inclination of Donald Hugh 'Danny' Roberts as a career, but it has become a passion. It has paid dividends and on Heroes Day he will be awarded the Order of Distinction in the rank of commander for contribution to the trade union movement.

He is currently president of the Union of Clerical, Administrative and Supervisory Employees (UCASE), vice-president of the National Workers Union (NWU) and vice-president of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions. Roberts has become one of the premier trade unionists in Jamaica.

"I was largely influenced by Michael Manley and the philosophy that he was expounding," said Roberts as Flair picked his brains between meetings. A friend encouraged him to take up a vacant position within the NWU as a research and publicity officer. So, fresh out of the University of the West Indies, Mona, in 1986, he signed up. He said that his first degree was in communications so it aided the publicity aspect of his job.

A philosophy of equality and social justice was honed in him, partly from the philosophy of Manley and others, but also from his mother who, through her care and nurturing of their neighbours, showed him the virtues of serving others. He lists Lloyd Goodleigh, former prime minister P.J. Patterson, Clive Dobson and Professor Rex Nettleford as "the kind of people I look to for guidance and mentoring".

In his nearly 30 years of work he has seen progress.


"There has a been a paradigmatic shift in the way trade unions represent themselves," he said. He also said he has seen a change in the dynamics of collective bargaining and a shift from adversarial and contentious negotiations to one of building cooperation and trust. The process though, is ongoing.

"If we get people trained and educated, it will develop a level of competence that will make a difference in the way we operate in the workplace," he said. He stressed that the myth that unions were only about destroying has to be debunked.

"The managers also have to change their paradigm. This macho-management style that some have has to change to one that's more cooperative."

Roberts has immersed himself into the trade union movement over the years. He was the first Caribbean national to be elected president of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions Youth Committee in 1991. He continues to represent the movement at regional and international conferences and is a member of Jamaica's delegation to the triennial Caribbean Congress of Labour.

Away from the trade union, Roberts serves as chairman of the Michael Manley Foundation, is a director of various institutions, including National Investment Bank of Jamaica, Heart Trust/NTA and the Self Start Fund. Roberts is also on the Board of Governors of alma mater, Kingston Technical.

Part-time lecturer

He is a part-time lecturer in the Department of Management Studies at the UWI and lectures in Industrial Relations and Law at the University of Technology. The latter role enables him to teach what he practises and vice versa.

Regarding the award, he expressed sobering words on the onus placed on him.

"It brings a sense of humility, if not a certain amount of trepidation, as you have to live up to the reputation you've earned. You try to satisfy yourself and others that it was well deserved."

Roberts enjoys badminton, reading and surfing the Internet. He is married with two daughters.

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