Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Crisis intervention needed in WI cricket

Published:Sunday | January 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Robert Buddan, Guest Columnist

There is a strong case for crisis intervention in West Indies cricket. When the crisis leading to the termination of the tour of India broke some of us wondered if it was not time for the region's trade unions to play a role in helping to settle cricket disputes which are labour-management disputes.

We thought of calling up a few labour leaders to identify an informal group to kick off the process, one that would volunteer advice to the disputing parties in that crisis. After all, the labour movement is strong on experience and knowledgeable about the region's labour laws and arbitration and settlement procedures. Before we could do so, however, reports came out that a solution to the crisis was in the making.

The solution, as things have turned out, was not a happy one. The crisis has opened up even more widely. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has sued the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). And now, the WICB has resorted to victimising players. So, I raise the original idea again. This time, I ask if there should not be a different role for CARICOM and a new one for the trade unions in crisis prevention, intervention, resolution and settlement.

Considering the leading role of the region's trade unions in the federation/regional project; recognising that the WICB operates by a federal/regional structure; noting that while there is no federal government of the West Indies, there are federal structures of governance in West Indies cricket; and mindful of the importance of West Indies cricket to regionalism and the talent of the region's cricketers, should there not be a body of advisers with competence in good labour practices and human resource management working with CARICOM to win back the confidence of the West Indian and world cricketing public.

Regain confidence

This group would also need to win back the confidence of sponsors, organisers, national boards and other critical stakeholders and prevent future crises that harm and undermine West Indies cricket, while promoting positive human relations in the game at the same time.

Furthermore, CARICOM's cricket sub-committee needs more power and ad hoc panels must be replaced by a permanent commission. CARICOM has intervened with positive results before. Tony Cozier points out that it did so in 2005 to secure Digicel as sponsor to replace Cable and Wireless and avert a row that had threatened West Indies participation in a triangular series that year.

When players went on strike in 2009 and did not play in the home series against Bangladesh, and when senior players were left out of the subsequent Champions Trophy in South Africa, CARICOM secured a provisional agreement so that a full-strength team could indeed play in South Africa. In 2011, it mandated its cricket subcommittee to mediate in a dispute between the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) and the WIBC. In 2012, it was asked to intervene in the controversy between the Guyana Government and its cricket board. In 2014, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves called for a remedy to the current crisis and proposed a CARICOM panel of mediators.

We can put something to CARICOM and join in Gonsalves' intervention. What is specifically being suggested is that CARICOM heads be asked to establish:

  • A cricket policy
  • A cricket commission
  • A cricket labour advisory panel

The cricket policy should require good governance with accountability, transparency, integrity and proper human resource practices in cricket management. It should be written in the framework of the CARICOM Sports Policy, the CARICOM Treaty and the Charter of Civil Society emphasising the rights and freedoms of sportsmen and women in cricket to enjoyment of freedom of trade. It should make arrangements for crisis interventions (without political interference).

The cricket commission should be funded by national boards (from the money they are receiving from international cricket), and the private sector. These funds should be reinvested in good governance and players' rights. CARICOM's inter-ministerial committees of labour, social security and sports should consider the appropriate legislative framework for the commission. The commission would see to it that the cricket policy is being adhered to by the WICB. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) should be the highest court of choice for adjudication.

The labour advisory panel
should advise the WICB and WIPA, in consultation with the commission and
with regard to cricket policy, on procedures for negotiation, making of
contracts, scrutinising agreements, and representing the players
according to players' rights and the laws that provide them with legal
protection. It should also look into the relations between national
boards, curators and ground staff to see that these workers are treated
justly.

The disputes and crises in West Indies cricket
are becoming more frequent and even more serious. We should recognise
that boards, selection panels, and players' associations like WIPA are
not trained in human resource management and governance. While we know
these phrases well we might not all be aware of how technical their
requirements can be. We cannot rely only on the reputation of past
players, however great they were.

They are not trained in these areas.
Cricket governance must fully come out from the past. It needs
structures for setting cricket governance right by requiring that the
West Indies Board follows today's standards of human rights,
professionalism, and good governance. The widening crisis gives us
another opportunity to work out a better solution within the region's
integration structures.

Something must be done about
the situation. The trade unions must be involved and CARICOM must place
this matter on the region's governance agenda. Gonsalves has stepped out
of his crease to drive the issue at the CARICOM level. Let us not allow
him to miss and get stumped. We need a regional cricket policy,
commission and labour advisory panel to oversee the protection of
cricketers' rights and the integrity of the game or we will all be
stumped.

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