I do not speak for the trade union movement
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Saturday’s Gleaner (February 16, 2019) carried a story on my response to issues surrounding the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) with the headline ‘Gov’t, unions, private sector on collision course over IDT rulings’, in which the views of the trade unions were attributed to me. I would wish to point out that I am no longer a practising trade unionist and therefore do not speak on behalf of the trade- union movement.
My present position as head of the Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute carries with it managerial responsibilities, along with the more rarefied pursuit of academia, which is my substantive role at The University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus. I, therefore, cherish the right to be able to express views which may or may not coincide with labour or management, or even the Government.
There has long been the perception that the institute is a mere extension of the trade union movement because in its formative years, the focus was on training and developing delegates and union officers in the field of trade unionism and industrial, relations praxis.
The pioneering works of Hugh Shearer, Michael Manley, Hopeton Caven, Rex Nettleford, Professor George Eaton and Hector Wynter did much to solidify the scholastic credentials of the institute as a regional body devoted to a better understanding of the role of labour and trade unions in national development.
In the last two decades, the work of the institute has evolved in response to the changing dynamics of globalisation and the field of collective bargaining and labour relations. It is precisely because industrial relations must now take a multiple-interest perspective that we have carried on the work started by my predecessor, Ms Marva Phillips, to expand the range of courses and offerings to include supervisors, managers and the general labour force. The policies that govern employment relations, and the work itself, impact employees, organisations and society, which is why our courses have moved horizontally across the three-tiered framework to provide, in some cases, matriculation requirements for degree courses.
In fact, we have in recent times signed memoranda of understanding with organisations to offer customised training for supervisory, middle and top management in areas such as productivity management, emotional intelligence, and workplace bullying, to name a few.
This is precisely why we took the decision to change the name of the institute from a ‘trade union institute’ to a ‘labour studies institute’ to reflect the broad focus on labour studies development across all categories of employees.
Further, the present debate surrounding the IDT has caused us to respond to what is obviously a demand for training, which should commence in another two weeks with a series of workshops on the appropriate ways to conduct a hearing and the processes and procedures to be followed to ensure its fairness. We will do this, in short order, by holding a forum on a review of the Labour Relations Code.
It is not my intention to have the institute engaged in contentious ranglings over labour issues, but to try to bring to the discourse a sober and balanced perspective, grounded in research.
We, therefore, welcome the opportunity extended by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica president, Howard Mitchell, to dispassionately examine our labour laws, identify their weaknesses and gaps, and institute corrective measures to make for a more efficient and equitable employment relationship and an opportunity for employees (unionised and non-unionised) to have a voice in the making of decisions that affect the terms and conditions of their work.
Hugh Shearer Labour Institute
UWI, Open Campus