Courier News, 23 July 2004
Livelihoods at stake, claim caddies
UNREST AMONG the caddies at St Andrews continues, with claims that the livelihoods of some seasoned regulars are being threatened by an influx of trainees and students. In addition to their anger over a £5 daily administration charge, caddies have strongly criticised the setup at St Andrews.
According to some of the disgruntled workforce who contacted The Courier yesterday, they are playing “second fiddle” to the trainees, students and those involved in the Caddie Connect training course operated by the links trust and Elmwood College in Cupar. One said, “I have never known morale to be at such a low ebb among the caddies. “What is going on here is scandalous. “Regular caddies who work all year round have been arriving at the caddie master’s offices no later than 7.30 am yet can often find themselves waiting behind 90 people. “A five-hour wait until noon is not uncommon. “Some caddies are so fed up at waiting up to several hours they go home again. “It now has to be exceptionally busy before we can get a second round in on any day. “Many of the regular caddies are now very concerned about their livelihoods.” Another spoke of the “fear” among the caddies of publicly voicing their concerns. He said, “No one dares to say a word of criticism because they are frightened they will lose their registration. “We are entitled to nothing, not even an opinion.”
Regular caddies also claim that some of those who have completed the Caddie Connect programme are simply “not up to the job.” Another experienced caddie, frustrated at what he sees as “preferential treatment” given to the new recruits, added, “Many of them don’t even know their way around the courses and what advice to offer their golfers. “It is something that has taken the regular caddies years to learn and perfect.” He spoke of one incident where a Caddie Connect newcomer allowed his player to play a shot at the 17th Road Hole on the Old Course from behind the wall at the rear of the green-clearly out of bounds and in an area known as “the donkey field” as it was used in years gone by to feed the donkeys that once operated on the West Sands.
Other topics of concern include the lack of facilities for the increasing number of caddies. He continued, “There are over 200 caddies at St Andrews yet our accommodation has seating for only 30 people. “There is also only one toilet for our use and that of the 15 or so women caddies. Surely this is completely inadequate.”
The St Andrews caddies are self-employed but have not had a rise for a number of years. Each day they work they are required to pay a £5 administration charge to the links administrators out of their £35 fee although it is not paid for any subsequent rounds worked on that day. Some claim, however, that they get their first job of the day so late on that it is virtually impossible to get a second bag later on.
A number of years ago the caddies operated a committee which met regularly with representatives of the links trust and the links management committee and allowed them to air any concerns. It was disbanded several years ago and many caddies now want it resurrected.
Responding to the complaints, links trust external relations manager Peter Mason said, “It is impossible to address any issues raised whilst those raising them are hiding behind a cloak of anonymity. “If there are genuine problems, these should be raised with the appropriate member of management so that they can be properly discussed and investigated and, if necessary, actioned. “We have never refused a request by caddies for a meeting.”