EDITORIAL: Govt needs to show compassion
EFFECTIVE HANDLING OF industrial relations issues is critical to a stable work environment and can help spur productivity, which in turn can contribute to growth in the economy.
Conversely, poor management of industrial relations matters can have a debilitating effect on the workforce, leading to poor morale and work ethic. So there must be wise leadership when it comes to this specific aspect of human resource management.
Against a background of an uncertain economic outlook and the reality of possible extensive displacement of workers in the public sector and quasi-state agencies, all industrial relations matters must be well managed. This is imperative if we are to avoid any disruption in the industrial climate. There are already many instructive lessons from which we can learn.
In Greece, Portugal, Spain and other countries with major economic challenges, organized labour has not taken kindly to situations when its members were poorly dealt with by either the public or private sectors. They have taken to the streets, often with crippling impact, to register their disgust.
Barbados has a responsible and mature organized labour movement, but their tolerance should not be unnecessarily tested. While Government’s money problems are known, the issues go far beyond the financial. Industrial relations concerns affect many areas of the public service – from teaching to nursing, from long-standing acting situations to late payments. Those giving guidance must at all times operate within the four corners of the law and also show compassion.
In the prevailing circumstances, the Freundel Stuart administration must avail of the best industrial relations expertise as it goes forward in this worrisome environment in which it is seeking to separate some public sector workers. It certainly must not breach, nor appear to so do, its recently enacted Employment Rights Act; neither must it in any way disadvantage workers.
Some commentators as well as the trade unions had warned about both the incorrect and inhumane way hundreds of Drainage Division workers were dismissed at the end of December. Prime Minister Stuart has agreed with their position, admitting that the situation was handled badly. Other Government ministers have also taken a similar view.
Mr Stuart was humble in admitting an injustice had been done, particularly to a group of workers at the bottom of the organizational structure. But this situation calls for much more than a public apology to the offended.
Someone whose job it was to give the best guidance clearly fell short of reasonable expectations, and while the Prime Minister has promised that there will be no repeat of this type of blunder, he owes it to the public to be specific as to where the problem occurred and who was responsible. The way this sensitive issue was dealt with caused a blot on our industrial relations report.