More Open Discussions Between Unions, business.
THE slow pace of the economy is changing the way employers, workers and their bargaining agents interact with each other.
This emerging change can be seen in the engagements taking place between trade unions and employers in that there are more open discussions between the two on behalf of workers.
Further, there is willingness on behalf of the workers representatives to negotiate harder rather than to quickly unleash the most formidable weapon in their armoury, which is strike action.
Deputy President General of the National Workers’ Union, Solace Myers said that while strike action against unreasonable employers will always be there and used when necessary, the things employers have to do to keep their businesses afloat have opened the way for more open discussions between them and trade unions.
“We have had frank discussions with employers. They have been more open in discussions about their bottom line,” Myers said.
“The strike weapon is always there but because of the slow economy, which employers are complaining of, negotiations have taken on a different face,” Myers said.
Earlier this year employees of the National Insurance Corporation used strike action to pressure the Corporation to accede to its demands. Employees in other companies have done the same over the past few months.
Even government has been the victim of strike action changing its policies to suit employees’ demands as a result.
Joseph Alexander, Executive Director of Saint Lucia’s Employers Federation concurs with Myers about the change in the relationship between employers and trade unions.
He points to the Civil Service Association and the NWU as having an understanding of the financial situation facing the country and certain businesses.
“They (trade Unions) understand the peculiar conditions which we are under”, Alexander said.
He added that both trade unions and employers know that pushing too hard will result in job cuts or closure of businesses.
“The way trade unions are now they appear to be meeting employers halfway,” Alexander said.
Myers hinted at that by pointing to the different approaches her trade union had to take to arrive at certain benefits for workers.
The NWU had, over the past several months, been involved in negotiations with several companies each with its unique set of problems and has been able to reach agreements with most of the employers on behalf of workers.
The security company, Secure Saint Lucia, is one company where an agreement has yet to be reached. However, the NWU has provided the company with a plan which, if utilized, will enable it to meet its obligation to its workers, for monies owed to them.
Renwick and Company is another entity with which the NWU had been locked in negotiations more than a year yet, was able to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.