The practice of good industrial relations has long been touted as the key to maintaining a good industrial relations climate in any jurisdiction. This is to be encouraged, and every effort ought to be made by government, capital and labour to maintain the status quo. Any deviation from this will not serve the interest of the stakeholders, as there is little to be gained and much to be lost.
For good industrial relations to be observed in any country, it is desirable that stakeholders commit to engaging in dialogue and consultation. The recipe for disaster lies in the display of arbitrary and/or unilateral behaviour on the part of any of the principal partners. Nothing can be more devastating to industrial harmony than to engage in inept action, or to introduce actions which may be considered as attempts at circumventing the law, rules or process. All stakeholders ought to recognize that this can potentially destroy the faith, trust, confidence, respect and goodwill that should be apparent between employers and trade unions, as the representatives of the workers.
Where an action is considered to be callous, indifferent and insensitive in nature, this will inevitably raise some red flags. In such circumstances, those at the receiving end will more than likely arrive at the conclusion that the action taken was calculated to be punitive. It is for this reason that it is wise for employers or their agents, to carefully weigh the consequences of any proposed action, before proceeding to institute the measure.
There is no denying that both employers and employees have rights which should be always respected by either party. If the relationship between the employer and the employees is not to be compromised, it would seem that the best way to treat to this would be for both parties to have a reciprocal open door communication policy. There are some actions that may merit a response, but it is often best to apply wisdom rather than haste in the making of a response. Following on this, there is value and merit in the old cliché which says, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’. Having said this, it makes good sense to ensure that an action has been unlawfully taken, before making a response.
Traditions, practice, and established precedents are three elements that underpin industrial relationship. Where there is a departure from any of these, particularly in questionable circumstances, can only sour the existing harmonious relationship. Where this occurs, it means that there is need for damage control. Sometimes in the interest of maintaining the status quo, it becomes necessary for all concerned to take a step back, reassess the situation and take positive steps forward. Correcting a mistake made can be a first step of showing good faith, and resorting to having discussions around the table, rather than in the Press, would be the way to go.
There are some other fundamentals that should not be lost upon all the actors in the relationship. It is advisable that it is recognized that there is no room for personality clashes; it is important to follow correct procedures, processes, guidelines, protocols, rules and the law, and to show respect for the opinion of others.
Trade unionist have always called for and maintained that communication and disclosure are important to ensuring the existence of a good employer-employee relationship. If this is what is known, then it is to be expected that learnt behaviour will be exercised for the good of all.
Dennis De Peiza Labour Management Consultant Regional Management Services Inc.
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