Dear Editor,The restoration of collective bargaining in the public service between the public authority and the Guyana Public Service Union is a welcome development. This is observing the treaty obligations flowing from the International Labour Convention No 151 – Labour Relations (Public Service) 1978, ratified by Guyana in June 1982. This Convention provides for the protection of public employees’ right to organise and collective bargaining, procedures for dispute settlement through negotiations, conciliation, mediation, and arbitration. Convention 151 confers similar rights flowing from Convention No 98 – Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, applicable to the private sector.The public authorities need to be mindful of International Treaty obligations of International Labour Conventions, ratified by Guyana, and national laws on the conduct of labour and industrial relations, including Trade Union Recognition Act Chapter 98:07, No 33 of 1997 which imposes an obligation on the union and employer to bargain in good faith and enter into negotiations with each other for the purpose of collective bargaining.The principles and practice of good faith bargaining in collective bargaining requires the practice of industrial diplomacy of mutual respect, and trust in civil encounters, including:* Adequate preparations on both sides for serious negotiations.* A determination by both sides to forge mutual agreements.* That the negotiating parties have a full mandate to agree on all issues on the negotiating table without frequent adjournments to consult higher authority. The negotiating teams should come to the table knowing fully the absolute limit of concessions and acceptance.* The public service negotiating team should be given the absolute percentage or dollar amount of the wage bill for increases in salaries/wages and allowances which it can distribute and concede through the cut and thrust of negotiations.* Negotiations are private, confidential processes, and should be free from premature media publicity and before the conclusion of full agreement or otherwise.* Communication to the media during the course of negotiations, if necessary, should be by joint releases.* All cost items of salaries/wages and allowances, etc should be on the negotiation table to determine the total increase in employment costs to the national treasury.* It is prudent to treat all negotiating items – salaries, wages, allowances, etc as a total package with the understanding that agreement on a single item is subject to agreement on all cost items, to avoid a more costly piece-meal approach.Lack of good faith bargaining constitutes the power approach in labour negotiations including: building up expectations of staff with unrealistic proposals at general meetings, agitation in the media before dialogue/discussions, ‘negotiating’ in the media, misinformation to the media, unnecessary threats of industrial actions, external influences and pressures, public demonstrations, public agitation, illegal actions, political and external lobbying during the course of negotiations, and personal attacks on the integrity of the members of either negotiating team or on the union or public authority.The parties should be aware that four possible approaches can be adopted by either or both parties in labour negotiations and in the management of labour conflicts:Avoidance approach: failure or refusal to deal with the issue; settlement by chance.Power approach: coercion to force the other side to concede; settlement by force, industrial actions – strikes, lockouts, etc.Rights approach: independent standards of right or fairness; settlement by a labour tribunal, arbitration or by a court of law.Consensus approach: the best and preferred approach which endeavours to reconcile, compromise or accommodate. The superiority of the consensus approach reflects settlement by the parties through direct negotiations or conciliation/mediation, or another mutually agreed means for final resolutionOne would expect the parties in the public sector would set a good example to the national community by eschewing of the power approach and employing the consensus and rights approaches in good faith encounters. There is also the assistance of a third party through Conciliation/Mediation, and finally, in the event of failure of the earlier processes, arbitration or a national commission review with recommendations to the National Assembly which provides the funds.Sincerely,Samuel J Goolsarran
Oil & gas— former Alberta PremierWhile consultations and lectures on oil and gas are ongoing, there is a need for more people to be involved in the dialogue. In addition, breaking down technical information, such as safeguards against environmental risks, is important to overall consultations.Former Premier of Alberta, Canada, Alison RedfordThis is according to the former Premier of Alberta, Canada, Alison Redford, QC, who was among the presenters at the inaugural Guyana Oil and Gas Association (GOGA)-sponsored conference and exposition over the past few days.She advised that policy makers take time to ensure that all pertinent information be above board and is understandable to the nation. “When you understand an issue well, you think that everyone understands it as well as you. And I’m telling you, speaking as someone who is not an engineer or a geologist, that there is really technical information about environmental impact and production that the public wants to understand.“And I’m sure (that) over the future, there will be lots of people who will stand up at public meetings and ask you questions that seem absolutely ridiculous to you, cause it seems so easy. So I would encourage you to take the time to build a foundation so that everyone can be a part of the discussion,” she advised.She noted that the public will have concerns because they care about their community, and may have unanswered questions based on what they read in the newspapers and on social media. Redford pointed out that other countries were late in having these frank and encompassing discussions, to the detriment of public relations.She said that Guyana has the opportunity to do better because the populace is capable of exchanging ideas and partly because of the GOGA-backed seminars. Redford observed that GOGA understands who needed to be a part of the conversation.“Political leadership will need to decide what they believe Guyanese want for policy choices. That gap between where political leadership makes the policy and what the rules say can takes different terms. I would suggest that creating the policy is one of the most dynamic and important conversations you can have; but once that policy has been set, I’ve certainly seen the development of rules being more successful when everyone has been involved all along,” she declared.According to Redford, it was not possible for technical experts to develop and set a framework without a different type of engagement with the public. Using Peru as an example, she explained that while policy makers might think their consultations were extensive enough, misinformation can hamper relations at the community and stakeholder level.“Peru has a wonderful set of legislation with respect to consultations with indigenous people. But at the end of the day, they have pipelines in northern Peru (that leaked) that they couldn’t repair because the community does not trust Government enough to (allow Government) come in and fix those leaks.”This is a reference to Peru’s declaration of a state of emergency last year after a pipeline owned by state oil company Petro Peru spilled 3000 barrels of crude oil into rivers. These rivers were a major source of water and food for some indigenous communities.