Tv6 Interview With Kenneth Dalip (Part II)
This is the second part of the Chamber’s series on Industrial Unrest in Trinidad and Tobago and potential strategies to resolve this dilemma. It is based on the CCN TV6 interview which featured Ken Dalip Chairman of the Industrial Relations Committee at the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce. The interview was conducted on August 7, 2011 by Hayden Blades.
Q: Are the ongoing negotiations in the Spirit of Collaboration and co-operation or is it more of an antagonistic relationship?
A: Generally where it works is in more of a collaborative effort. In fact, I can cite examples in the manufacturing sector and in the steel industry. We all know the experience of the steel industry and how it evolved from state ownership to private sector control. This is a success story which you may know and I happened to be part of that transformation. It came about in large measure through production incentives. You can look at the banking sector and see examples of productivity. There are people who make alot of money in the jobs that they do because they do it well. They create economic value for the organisation and there are ways of measuring it. In the manufacturing sector, the employers that really have to compete for external markets are doing exactly what is being advocated here. They are engaging in pay for performance and in negotiations, which is something that we need to recognise. In Trinidad we are engaging in public posturing which is helping no one.
At the enterprise level, the collaboration and cooperation is there because we have moved away from this power game and the positional kind of negotiation where the employer says, “I can offer you 5%, take it, or leave it” and the employee responds, “I want 25%” and you get nowhere. That stance is passé. It is really something that we should not even be experiencing as a country. There is a concept called interest based negotiations which has been developed in the United States and which has found use in the local private sector. There has also been productivity bargaining and gain sharing which has been introduced into some companies. So there are real successes, and we are not even working to identify those successes. We need to learn from them and they are happening every day.
Q: What are your thoughts on arriving at a tripartite arrangement between and amongst labour, the government and private sector as a sort of a guide to future wage negotiations especially under these circumstances?
A: I was part of the tripartite process organised by a previous administration and it was a very useful forum. In Barbados there is a social compact agreement in place and this simply means that people understand the needs of the country and develop plans to get there.
Q: Why hasn’t it worked here?
A: There was a social compact developed here in 2000 and then with the change in administration in 2001 it was not revisited. Neither was it re-implemented under the present administration. We as a nation recognise the value of it but we just dropped the ball. We need to pick it up again because we need to work together, collaborate, cooperate and find solutions. What is happening right now is that we are talking at each other, not with each other and we need to engage the interest of everyone.
Q: Mr. Dalip do you think that we are at the stage where mediation will help?
A: That is a good question. I happen to be associated with a well recognized mediation agency known as the Dispute Resolution Centre which is an affiliation of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce. I think that their services will be helpful in this scenario.
Q: Will this be a free service?
A: I think that in the national interest, the government should find a way to afford it. If you have an issue which you cannot be resolved around the negotiating table or you find that you are butting heads and constantly in confrontation mode, then mediation is the perfect solution.
Q: But both parties must agree to mediation?
A: Yes and they must have the will to solve the problem.
Q: But that is not going to happen in an antagonistic atmosphere?
A: If we step back for a moment, and look at where our interests lie, whether in the trade union movement, government or business sector, all areas of business will be improved by engaging in a process of problem solving. If we do not do this we will all suffer the consequences because the result will affect both sides. We are all in it together and therefore we ought to have a common interest in solving this problem. What would we have achieved by shutting down the Country?
Q: It seems to be a battle of wills taking place or a level of one-up-man ship taking place.
A: That has proven to be a disastrous road to travel. Power negotiations or negotiations based on who is stronger, result in one party winning and the other losing. When you are talking on the basis of finding common ground or about interest based negotiations you are saying that you recognise that there are divergent interests and common interests and you do what you can to satisfy those to the best of your ability. This is a well established process which has been successful in other countries. Mediation therefore is probably the ideal way of bringing those parties together allowing their interests to be recognised and satisfied.
Q: We seem to be sitting here on Morning Edition and talking and we seem to be arriving at some workable solutions. Maybe we should take this programme and put it out there to the Brian Lara Promenade and see if we can get some of the protagonists to sit down here with us and get through with this. Mr. Dalip thank you so much for being with us on Morning Edition.
A: It has been my pleasure.