Need for conciliatory approach to problem solving
By Lara Pickford-Gordon Wednesday, September 26 2012
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For the children: Chairman of the Children's Authority Stephanie Daly, left, in discussion with Sandra Jones, permanent secretary at the Ministry of G...
Greater effort should be made by employ and unions to have collective agreements current to the period under negotiations since delays cause frustration among workers, and leads to industrial action.
President of the Industrial Court, Deborah Thomas-Felix, made the observation while addressing the opening of the law term (September 2012-2013) of the Industrial Court, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain.
She said, “It has become the norm for negotiations, and the registration of new collective agreements, to take place some years after the period in review.”
Thomas-Felix said an unhealthy labour climate could prove disastrous for TT in this time of economic uncertainty. Unions and employers had a crucial role to play in maintaining social stability in the recession and recovery. She said there was need for social dialogue and a conciliatory approach to problem-solving between the parties, and this is “even more pertinent now than ever before. I would suggest that parties (union and employers) re-examine the timeline for negotiation of new collective agreements.”
Thomas-Felix said practitioners would agree the provision of continuous labour and services, innovation in business, and a stable labour climate was critical to boosting the economy and improving the quality of life for citizens. She touched on the issue of wages and productivity computation, and said she would like to see greater attention placed on the provision of quarterly market statistics by the Central Statistical Office, especially wage and productivity indices by the industrial sector.
Thomas-Felix said dispensation of justice by the court depended on up-to-date information, and with the increase in the number of labour market disputes specific focus needed to be placed on strengthening the country’s information base on wages and productivity across all sectors in the economy. She said the information would go a long way to help judges of the Court have a solid picture of emerging trends in the labour market, and be in a better position to evaluate the impact of the changes on the industrial relations climate. The Central Bank, she said, is assisting the Court in refining its labour market data and methods.
Thomas-Felix provided data which indicated an increase in disputes filed by employers and unions in the aftermath of the international economic crisis which began in 2008. Retrenchment reports have increased over the years.
In 2007 there were 481 disputes filed, a year later this rose to 692, and the year after 781. Last year 878 disputes were filed before the court, and so far for 2012, 566.
Thomas-Felix said, “These figures show a steady increase of unsolved disputes between unions and employers, and it also speaks to the increasing volatility of the industrial relations climate in this country.”
Retrenchment reports, she added, have also increased. In 2007 there were (553), 2008 (1,421) and 2009 (2,125). While there was a drop in 2009 to 638, it rose to 1,124 last year. The manufacturing sector had the highest number of reported retrenchments.