“Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” – Proverbs 3:17
The Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) has a stated role to influence the social, economic and business environment of Barbados in order to create sustainable economic progress and quality of life for all residents of this island.
It has been reported that the BCCI is extremely concerned about the breakdown in negotiations between its member LIME (a telecommunications company) and the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU). It is my understanding that the BWU is contemplating national strike action and the BCCI thinks that to strike at this time will further cripple and undermine the economy – something that no one wishes. The BCCI is urging that both parties return to the bargaining table and respect the negotiating process with the aim of reaching an amicable and peaceful solution.
Businesses, from time to time, have to make difficult decisions but should do so in the spirit of being fair to all stakeholders. They basically have to protect the longevity of their businesses whilst maintaining employee quality and an optimal number of employees. As the business environment changes, so does the business strategy which has to be adopted by the enterprise. LIME is no exception.
The BWU’s mission is to be an excellent trade union provider of labour market services in Barbados and the wider Caribbean and to improve the quality of life of all Barbadians through participatory representation.
The BWU boss, Sir Roy Trotman, accused LIME of side-stepping the decades old protocol of not taking any action whilst negotiations were on-going. He noted that the parties involved met on the last day of 2012 and agreed to re-convene on January 7, but instead, LIME sent home the 97 workers on January 2, fully aware another meeting was to be held five days later. Sir Roy has demanded that LIME withdraw the letters or the BWU will engage in full industrial action over the lay-offs.
What is required here is a peaceful solution in the interest of Barbados. If Barbados wins, we all win!
On the face of it, I would certainly support the BCCI’s position to urge both parties to return to the bargaining table and respect the negotiating process with the aim of reaching an amicable and peaceful solution.
At the bargaining table, I would want to understand why LIME found it necessary to send home 97 workers. My mind would be open to the fact that businesses have to protect their longevity whilst maintaining an optimal level of employee quality and number of employees and, from time to time, have to make difficult decisions but should do so in the spirit of being fair to all stakeholders.
I do not hold the position that a business should employ persons for the sole purpose of maintaining employment because this strategy could be detrimental to the business and ultimately lead to its demise where nobody would win. I do not hold the position that should a given business be connected to or be a multi-national that this position be compromised.
I do not hold the position that the civil service should employ persons for the sole purpose of maintaining employment because this strategy would absorb resources which could very well be used to provide important services for the benefit of the overall population.
What I am clear on is that, in the event that it is in the interest of the sustainability of a business or the civil service it is necessary to redress the situation by laying off staff for whatever reason (e.g. low productivity or redundancy), the private and public sector employers should have joint social partnership responsibilities to explore alternative avenues of employment for the staff. These opportunities should include entrepreneurship for which, in my opinion, seed and venture capital resources and shepherding are mandatory to support such enterprise development and should be put in place. This is why start-up employment is so important and why I devote so much time in an attempt to find a sustainable solution to this problem.
Visionaries and serial entrepreneurs like Rotarian James Corbin, whose funeral took place on Saturday, are essential to the enterprise development process. Gone too soon! It is important that entities like the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation and the Barbados Entrepreneurs’ Venture Capital Fund should be supported and allowed to flourish.
It is recognised that the diligent pursuit of the Barbados social partnership model is an optimal strategy towards the objective of sustainable development and that the media should be included in the social partners to act as a catalyst in the achievement of the objective. The role of the government is to provide regulatory and service functions, the role of the private sector is to do business, the role of the Trade Unions is to induce harmony between employer and employee to achieve greater productivity for fair compensation and the role of NGOs is to support the other social partners by mobilising volunteers and garnering grant support from benevolent sources.
It would be wonderful if the BWU had an objective in its planning process, driven by its mission, which would focus on the achievement of greater productivity for fair compensation to mitigate the negative image of aggressive intent associated by strike action which could lead to chaos.
Let us all commit to a path to peace. It is an essential nutrient for the nurturing of the spirit. Let us find ways to spread peace and love by sharing our time, skills and resources within our community and beyond.