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Union leader and father advises… pay attention

By Kaelanne Jordan


Vincent Cabrera, a former trade union leader has over 40 years of service in the field of industrial relations. He is a former President of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) and now serves as an industrial judge at the Industrial Court.

In a special Father’s Day interview with The Catholic News, Cabrera shares insightful reflections on his journey. His experiences and perspectives shed light on the demanding yet rewarding nature of balancing professional duties with fatherhood.


The foundation of values and work ethic

Cabrera credits his father Augustus Cabrera and maternal uncle Lloyd Roberts for instilling in him the importance of a strong work ethic and the value of education. “Both showed the example of being strict with children and ensuring that they receive a good education,” he recalls. “They always emphasised attention to detail and the importance of doing any activity as close to excellence as possible.”

Balancing the demands of union leadership and personal life was a constant struggle for Cabrera. “This balance was not always achieved. I balanced competing activity to the best of my ability,” he admits. The pressures of his role sometimes meant picking up his children late from school, leading him to question, “Was it really worth doing?”


Commitment to workplace justice

Cabrera notes that while some colleagues embraced the mantra of workplace justice, others seemed indifferent. Despite this, he remained steadfast in his commitment. “That life is a struggle and never give up on what you want to achieve. There were too many [challenges] to recall, but I would hold on to an issue and not let go until it was resolved,” he asserts.

Among Cabrera’s proudest accomplishments are negotiating the first 16 weeks of maternity leave in the country and playing a pivotal role in the formation of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM). He also helped achieve a unified trade union for all workers in the finance industry, marking significant milestones in labour rights.


Advice and reflections

To those following in his footsteps, Cabrera offers sage advice: “Make more time for your children” and “Pay attention to the needs of your members.” He stresses the importance of delegation and time management to ensure family comfort.

Looking back, Cabrera expresses a desire for a positive legacy but laments that “not enough is written on such matters.” He remains humble about his parenting, acknowledging that he is not perfect and has had to learn many things along the way, particularly as a single parent for a significant period.

As he looks to the future, Cabrera hopes that his children will achieve their dreams and not wait for the perfect time to enjoy life. He is uncertain about his children’s plans, but cherishes their achievements and remains hopeful for their continued success.