New Issues in Collective Bargaining

Traditionally, trade unions in the Caribbean, in negotiating wages and conditions of employment for their members, have resorted to the confrontational approach to settle outstanding issues. In the early days of trade unionism, this approach was extremely successful and was effectively used. It can be said that employers were cognizant of the close relationship that existed between the political leaders in most of the Caribbean islands and the trade union leaders. In some instances, they were one and the same person.

As the countries became independent and the impact of adverse economic circumstances began to be felt, employers in both the public sector and private sector responded by resorting to taking tough economic decisions. Invariably, these decisions focused on the way in which wage increases were negotiated, the level of these increases and the impact which they had on government finances and on profits at the level of the enterprise.

As a consequence, collective bargaining took a new turn as trade unions were forced to examine seriously their approach to the preparation of proposals and the presentation of their case. At the same time, alternative approaches to confrontation were examined and in some instances adopted. Social dialogue has been developed by the ILO as one of the alternative approaches recommended to the social partners (governments, employers and trade unions). In this respect, the ILO Caribbean Office, in collaboration with the US Department of Labour conceptualized the PROMALCO (Programme for the Promotion of Management/Labour Cooperation) project at the level of the enterprise. A number of studies on best practices in selected enterprises in the Caribbean are being developed to demonstrate how effective social dialogue can be in increasing productivity and competitiveness.

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Source: International Labour Office – Caribbean

Author: Robert L. Morris