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EDITORIAL: Call for industrial action reasonable


BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Call for industrial action reasonable

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This country has had an exemplary record of harmonious industrial relations in which unions on the one hand, and the employers on the other (and we include the Government in this grouping) have been able to resolve even the most intractable disputes after discussing the issues in a mature manner. Only occasionally, have the unions had to use the strike weapon.
The protracted dispute between the National Conservation Commission and the two major unions seems destined to mar this admirable record and to add insult to injury, the Government and state agencies aspire to be model employers.
The immediate source of contention is the plethora of problems into which Government finances have fallen. The State’s position is that it has suffered a loss of revenue and has to cut expenditure, and that there must be job cuts have been accepted by both sides. The issue which has proved to be a flashpoint is the manner in which workers will be severed.
Will first in, last out be the approach or is it last in, first out, or is it to be a combination of methods with the objective being transparency and as much even-handedness as is possible in what are difficult decision- making circumstances?
The issues have not been settled; and that is a major problem, but what seems to have irked the unions most, is the approach of the employers. When a union leader can accuse the employer of “dipsy doodling” and can harshly describe “in muscular language” the treatment of the workers as the negotiation process developed, then a closer and more critical look has to be taken.
Bluntly put, the separation process at NCC should have been resolved by this time. Whoever and whatever is or is not to blame for our present economic predicament is a matter for another time and place. The cuts must be made, but equally the workers must feel that the process is a principled one which tries to be as fair as possible; even though everyone will not be happy.
But if the large majority of the workers retained come from a specific region identified with the governing party and the majority of those severed inhabit other areas identified with the opposing party; then there will be an outcry. Similar concerns will attend if those separated were hired in the main before the change of Government in 2008. These are the realities.
Similar concerns will have arisen when the Minister had to attend a conference overseas; and an acting minister (who did a good job) had to step in. So too, when ill health prevented the NCC general manager from attending a meeting with the Minister and the unions; even though his malady subsided enough so he could attend work the following day.
With the best will in the world, the patience of the workers has been sorely tested and at this juncture, the call to aggressive industrial action is a reasonable response to what is clearly a man-made problem.

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