Dr. George Eaton ‘left an indelible mark in Jamaica and Canada’

Dr. George Eaton ‘left an indelible mark in Jamaica and Canada’

February 6, 2017

One of the foremost authorities on industrial relations in the Commonwealth Caribbean has passed away.

York University professor emeritus of economics and political science Dr. George Eaton died last week at his Kingston, Ontario home. 

The senior scholar was 80.

At the time of his death, he was the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute (TUEI) advisory board and University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus Consortium for Social Development & Research chair.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1936, Eaton obtained double first-class honours in economics and political science from McGill University. The only Jamaican to be awarded the Guy Drummond Fellowship for post-graduate studies at France’s Sorbonne University returned to McGill to complete his doctorate.

His dissertation was, ‘The Development of Trade Unionism in Jamaica from the Perspective of the Role of Trade Unions in Less Developed Countries’.

Beginning his academic career as a research fellow and lecturer at UWI’s newly established Faculty of Economics in 1961, Eaton – a labour economist and industrial relations specialist -- collaborated with former Jamaica Prime Ministers Hugh Shearer and Michael Manley, late Jamaica Gleaner editor and Jamaica Labour Party senator Hector Wynter who was a Rhodes Scholar and trade unionist Hopeton Caven who died in October 2015 – to establish the TUEI in 1963.

He completed an assignment as a United Nations senior public administration adviser in Somalia in 1965 before returning to York University to resume his academic career.

The founding president of the Organization for Canadian Initiatives that promoted social and economic well-being of Canadians of Caribbean heritage, Eaton leveraged his linkage with York University through Atkinson College to organize the Caribbean Initiatives 80s Program that brought together leading scholars and practitioners from Canada, the Caribbean, England and the United States to present papers and speeches on various topics of Caribbean culture and political economy.

In the 1970s, Eaton started a consultancy firm in Jamaica while serving as an adviser in the Ministry of Labour and Employment for three years and permanent secretary as an expert on modernization of government. He also chaired the labour market reform committee that produced a blue-print that’s known as ‘The Eaton Report’.

He authored an encyclopaedic study of Jamaicans in Canada and ‘Alexander Bustamante and Modern Jamaica’ that was published in 1975 and re-issued 20 years later.

The recipient of the Order of Jamaica in 2010, Eaton was conferred with an honorary doctorate by UWI two years later.

Lawyer and former Jamaica sportswriter/broadcaster Errol Townshend said Eaton has left an indelible mark in Jamaica and Canada.

“George served Jamaican extremely well in terms of re-organizing the civil service,” he said. “In Canada, he was very active in community affairs before retiring.”

Dr. Luz Longsworth, the pro vice-chancellor and principal at the UWI Open campus, noted that Eaton turned his attention to pension fund assets in later years.

“He saw that as an important form of savings where workers have little control over the governance of these funds and urged trade unions to adopt new strategies and approaches to ensure the economic interests of employees are fully protected and workers’ best interests can be preserved and guaranteed,” she added.

Eaton is survived by his wife of 64 years, Kathleen, five children, 14 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

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