Notes From The Margin

February 17, 2008

Does Barbados Need An Industrial Court?

I run a small business (approx. 10 employees) if this general strike comes off next week it will cost me a significant amount of money. I have no part in this BWU/Royal Shop/Sandy Lane, and yet I will suffer a direct economic consequence of what is a Union action! In theory the Union must carry some civil liability for this cost, but in reality there is no way that I can recover this cost.

Why should I (along with everyone else) be penalised for one company’s perceived intransigence? The threat of a general strike is irresponsible and shows why we need to have an industrial court in this country.

Small Business Owner

Above is a comment by a small business owner and he asks what in our opinion is a valid question.

Historically industrial relations in Barbados has relied on a system of volunteerism. That is that collective agreements aren’t actually legal contracts but are considered to be more along the lines of “gentlemen’s agreements”; that is that either side can breach the agreement at will. Collective agreements are usually enforced by the relative power of the union and the business owner. Now here’s the funny thing… as INSANE as this system may sound, in Barbados it has actually worked! While industrial courts are well established throughout rest of the Caribbean, we in Barbados continue to function on a volunteerism basis, and have had a relatively stable IR climate for a long period of time. ‘

Now of course there are certain features of the Barbados system that make this workable, you have a very small number of very large powerful unions, and you also have a relatively homogeneous private sector. This has meant that historically, everyone knew the rules and how the game was played and everyone was prepared to give and take to make the overall system work.

Now in 2008 we still have a small number of large unions, however the private sector is no longer as monolithic as it was in the past. We have new international investors, we have regional investors, we have relatively new local players. In short we have people who are accustomed to functioning a more “rules based” industrial relations culture. They don’t know how we play the game “’bout here”

This of course leads to all sorts of complications, issues of recognition, issues of wildcat strikes. The Sandy Lane Showdown is a prime example of this. Is there a penalty for workers breaching the collective agreement? Where historically local employers have accepted the occasional wildcat strike as par for the course, someone accustomed to an environment where collective agreements are contracts will expect to be able to terminate wildcat strikers for “abandoning the job”.

Issues such as this will continue to come up. So we on the margin ask the question

Is it time that we retired the volunteerism system?

Do we now NEED an industrial court?

We think it deserves serious consideration.

Marginal

Advertisements

7 Comments »

  1. Marginal tell small business owner he will be suffering for the greater good. He must learn to support his own people and he should not be so insular.

    This what I hate about black people, once everything is right with them to hell with their brothers.

    When he gets into some sort of trouble he will be appealing to all other black people to come to his assistence.

    I find that the more black people climb the social ladder the more stupid they are becoming.

    Your time will come small business owner!

    Comment by Anonymous — February 18, 2008 @ 9:08 pm | Reply

  2. Marginal:

    When you said:

    “We have new international investors, we have regional investors, we have relatively new local players. In short we have people who are accustomed to functioning a more “rules based” industrial relations culture. They don’t know how we play the game “’bout here”

    This of course leads to all sorts of complications, issues of recognition, issues of wildcat strikes. The Sandy Lane Showdown is a prime example of this. Is there a penalty for workers breaching the collective agreement? Where historically local employers have accepted the occasional wildcat strike as par for the course, someone accustomed to an environment where collective agreements are contracts will expect to be able to terminate wildcat strikers for “abandoning the job”.”,

    you were barking up the right tree, and unlike lord Norman who said: “the dogs may bark, but the caravan marches on”, he who writes anonymously has clearly missed the point! He/she clearly does not understand what globalisation is all about. How sad that matters of serious business like those currently confounding the BWU and the management of the Royal Shop, and Sandy Lane Hotel are seen through the absurd blinkers of “race”. But then, again, the good book tells us that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skill; …

    Comment by Linchh — February 18, 2008 @ 9:48 pm | Reply

  3. Anonymous, one observation…

    Why do you presume he’s black? There’s nothing in the post to suggest a race.

    Just a thought.

    Marginal

    Comment by notesfromthemargin — February 18, 2008 @ 9:48 pm | Reply

  4. Really now, Marginal.

    Comment by Anonymous — February 19, 2008 @ 7:09 am | Reply

  5. Seriously 😉

    He might easily be white or indian.

    Marginal 😀

    Comment by notesfromthemargin — February 19, 2008 @ 1:25 pm | Reply

  6. Marginal, if he was white or Indian he would be supporting his own. The fact that he is against the strike speaks volumes about his race.

    Black people don’t like to support their own and that is a fact.

    And it is fact that other races in Barbados count on.

    Comment by Anonymous — February 19, 2008 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

  7. The business owner only highlighted the fact that the unions have a lot of work to do in educating the public about the benefit of having a strong voice. We should accept that challenge and see the comments of this business owner as an alarm bell.
    Mr. Business owner, I thank you for sharing your views. However, sometimes, Unions have to use the one weapon they have, and reluctantly so, to achieve fairness in the workplace. Please permit me to ask the question: are you a member of an employers federation? Many employers become members so that they can negotiate tax benefit and lobby politicians in passing laws. If say that the Government decides ti increase import taxes by 50%, this would affect your import cost. Would it not be better to have an association speak on your behalf? And what if the Government does not listen, can’t the association take action?
    Sir, the same resides with the trade unions and representing the interest of their workers.

    I trust that you would think about it.

    Comment by Trevor — July 18, 2011 @ 6:01 pm | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: