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Gordon Robinson | Please, sir, no butter bun!

Published:Monday | March 26, 2018 | 12:00 AMGordon Robinson


When I used to practise full-time lawyering as a senior partner in one of Jamaica's largest (not-often-most-successful) and best law firms, what used to irk me most about that particular rat race was the bonus entitlement culture.

For about a decade starting circa 1984, my firm was buffeted (not by Margaritas) by serial misfortune that led to mass lawyer migration, financial crisis after financial crisis, negative capital growth, and annual losses that taught me all about fiscal consolidation and responsibility long before it was nationally fashionable.

Yet, every December, each staff member expected a 'Christmas bonus' as if this were part of their agreed conditions of work. They had no regard for their corporate discipline, performance, contribution to, or condition of, the bottom line, irrespective of exemplary contribution.

Seasonal bonuses are treated by Jamaican workers as fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. If an employer hints to any employee that these are discretionary and payable only if profits from which bonuses would be available are made, the reaction resembles that of a Guantanamo Bay torture victim.

It's that time of year again when every worker knows he/she will receive free bun and cheese from his/her employer. This knowledge is equivalent to certainties like the sun rising in the east; the Pope being Catholic; and violent crime increasing after states of emergency are lifted. A good friend who is also an MP complained bitterly to the Old Ball and Chain that hundreds of constituency workers expect free bun and cheese this week, despite the cost being high enough to equip the constituency's schools with much-needed modern technology.


I feel MPs' pain, but advise against an intemperate response to the ingrained culture I've described, especially against the background of recent history when Government spent gazillions in bush-clearing and roadworks coinciding with local government and national by-elections. Our political history is paved with freeness, and it'll take more than one MP with a conscience to change that course. If you don't believe me, ask Damion Crawford, who could claim credit for the JLP win in the last election by insisting, One Don style, that his CDF funds be spent on education, not on political freeness. His reward? He was unceremoniously booted from his constituency by ungrateful constituents who immediately voted for a replacement candidate so unsuitable that he was almost instantly removed by the PNP. The resultant late entry by a seemingly even more out-of-touch Imani Duncan-Price resulted in a lost constituency formerly held by PNP and a one-seat JLP majority.

In the 2016 general election, the PNP recorded 6.4 per cent less votes than 2011, while JLP scored 7.8 per cent more. In East Rural St Andrew, despite PNP votes down only two per cent on 2011, there was a national-average-exceeding swing to the JLP, producing 8.5 per cent more votes than 2011. Three years later, Damion STILL hasn't been relocated to a compatible constituency, although he has blamed his extended time on the sidelines on a decision not to return to representational politics.

So, principle and politics don't work together for good in our political system. A more strategic way to insert principle into constituency politics is required. In the meantime, study the system and look for alternative funding. There are more ways to skin every cat.

One of radio's earliest talk shows ('What's Your Grouse?') was hosted by legendary Rabbi Bernard Hooker. One caller complained bitterly that his wife was giving him "butter bun". Rabbi was confused. "What's the problem?" he asked. "My wife gives me butter bun all the time. I love butter bun!"

MPs must learn to lead from the front while appearing to take instruction from followers. Most successful politicians have embraced this crucial tactic. Meanwhile, study and honour your Jamaican culture. Give bun all the time, but with cheese (no butter), at Easter. Keep it dry. And safe!

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to