Gregory Rousseau was a trade unionist of long standing before he was appointed to be a Judge of the Industrial Court. He worked for many years in that most difficult of areas, and was highly respected in his field.
Recent press reports about his contribution to last week’s ECA seminar on Landmark Court Judgments shows that he has continued to build upon his knowledge as a trade unionist in his now capacity as a Judge. He is absolutely correct when he says that most of the cases that employers lose in the industrial Court are due to employers not following laid down and agreed practices of good industrial relations. He is also entirely correct in noting that in almost every case it showed that managers were not trained in basic industrial relations principles.
It is not the Managing Directors that end companies up in court, it is those in the positions of supervisory management on up, those that have the responsibility of directly being in contact with employees.
Even when strikes are ostensibly over wage increases, as one IR manager said to me this morning, that is not usually why individual workers go on strike when called. It is because they were refused time off to attend their daughter’s graduation, or to go to their elderly mother’s aid when she fell.
“He just never listens” as one frustrated and bitter employee said recently.
What we all seem to forget is that our traditional view of industrial relations pit workers against employers, reflecting a situation where the employers owned the business and were solely responsible for its financial success or failure. Nowadays, most managers are employees as well, and in public companies, trade unions also own shares. The environment in which people work has changed.
His Honour is right. There are recognised principles of good industrial relations practice which, if followed avoid disputes. It is not nuclear medicine we are dealing with. Mostly it is common sense and the principles of natural justice that supervisors and managers and shop stewards need training in.
If only people would listen!
To get clarification on the above, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt can be contacted at PMSL 625-9212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.