EDITORIAL: In the national interest
Sun, May 06, 2012 - 12:00 AM
Within recent times, the industrial relations climate of our small nation has been disrupted in a manner unfamiliar to most of us.
Front page headlines have been made out of The Alexandra School affair, and the conflict at Lime is ongoing when we all thought it had been solved. Now, Diamonds International is all over the front pages of our local papers.
Threats of strikes or work stoppages have become so familiar now to our ears that the idea of an Industrial Court has issued from the lips of a Cabinet minister.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones, in proposing such, seemed very concerned about work stoppages by teachers and the adverse impact they might have on students.
Obviously, if teachers are on strike, then the students are perhaps being handicapped in their ongoing preparations for examinations, and one does not have to be a Minister of Education to understand Mr Jones’ worry over the welfare of the students. It need hardly be emphasized that teachers as a body also have their own rights and that teaching is one of the most important of activities in any society. Some rate it higher than a profession, if that is possible.
The industrial relations matter gripping our attention right now is not about teachers though. It has to do with the general body of workers; but in this small open economy of ours, all workers are entitled to the same high consideration and respect as their peers.
So it is not off the mark to describe the interests of one group of workers as those of all workers.
And, it may be possible for one to recognize why this most recent strike threat was made, even though one would most vehemently not agree with the threat to call out workers en masse at this stage of the Diamonds International issue.
Yet, whatever may be the specific cause of the problem, all workers’ disputes need to be settled quickly, especially in times of recession, and it may be that all employers should make all reasonable effort to have such challenges resolved before they fester and become the reason for abandonment of the voluntaristic approach to industrial relations, of which we are all as a nation immensely proud.
In this context we urge all parties to approach these several testing matters with the national interest uppermost in minds. We recognize and expect that employers and workers alike will find it necessary to vigorously defend their positions, but a proper level of tolerance and mutual respect is likely to bring lasting and more harmonious settlements than any imposition by a court or such other tribunal.
The teachers and principal of Alexandra will have their day before the commission of inquiry, and the nature of that dispute may be more amenable to the holding of such an inquiry than that of the other things now occupying our national attention.
It cannot be impossible for the respective parties of Lime and Diamonds International, and the union, to sit down in an atmosphere of constructive calm and resolve whatever issues there are that threaten the industrial climate at these two enterprises, and by extension the national calm.
The long-standing reputation of the Barbados Workers’ Union as a highly responsible labour organization, and the traditional proper attitude of cooperation and social responsibility by employers and their organizations, should augur well for a resolution of the current difficulties.
As an independent people we have not hitherto allowed narrow sectional interests of any kind to override the national interest, as often happened in the very distant years. We must not restart that unwholesome practice of the dim, deep past!
- Editor's Choice