Industrial action at Alexandra School could have been prevented.
Programme Coordinator for Labour and Employment Relations in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Elsworth Young, told this to a panel discussion this morning as part of the opening of the Annual Conference of the Human Resources Management Association of Barbados.
Young, a retired chief labour officer and permanent secretary in the ministries of labour and youth affairs, was of the view that “proactive early intervention by the chief personnel officer, could have averted industrial action.
Young, who was also an industrial relations consultant to CARICOM, told the human resources practitioners that even though the CPO informed the commission of enquiry into the school that she had no jurisdiction to intervene, he felt she could have called in the disputing parties early and tried to resolve the problems.
“The CPO could have averted the strike, had she called in the parties to investigate that the principal could have become dispensable and could be removed, had she adopted a different role,” he said.
He also said that a broader interpretation of the Committee of Permanent Secretaries set up under Section 7 of the Pubic Service Act, 2007, could have intervened under the leadership of the head of the public service and averted the strike.
Young pointed out that the committee’s statutory responsibility under Section 8 of the Public Service Act was for coordinating management functions to provide a modern and efficient public service. He said, too, that the Ministry of Education did not seek outside industrial relations expertise, such as from the Labour Department in confronting the problems at Alexandra.
The former chief labour officer said he believed also that the practice of sending industrial relations disputes to the prime minister was not satisfactory. He said he would prefer to see a separation of politicians the settlement of industrial issues.
Young at this point, made an indirect recommendations for the establishment of an industrial disputes tribunal by referring to other Caribbean countries that have such bodies, “thus taking industrial relations disputes out of the hands of the political directorate”.
“Is there a need for a code of IR practice to govern IR across the entire economy? Is there a conflict of interest by political directors in presiding over industrial disputes in the economy?