Challenges in public service labour, industrial relations

first_imgDear Editor,In the public service and the expanded State sector, and statutory bodies, industrial relations and collective bargaining are more regulated and restricted by legislation or practice than in the Private Sector. With the introduction of structural adjustment type measures in some countries, including the reduction of public expenditure in the Public Sector, industrial relations drifted from the traditional system. Deviations and new practices by agencies of the State challenge the free collective bargaining model and autonomy of the negotiating parties through greater State direction, intervention, regulation, legislation and remuneration policies.These developments are understood against the emergence of the dominant, public service and growing State enterprises through nationalisation, or through the creation of national entities/agencies. In these situations, governments, as employers of major sections of the work force, exercise significant influences in industrial relations under the notion of promoting the national interest in the wider community.In some countries, much to the disquiet of trade unions and workers, Government as a employer, promoted changes in the system without legislation within the context of an apparent voluntary framework in the collective bargaining process. In other cases, changes were introduced by legislation. In the State sector, greater control and regulation are imposed on collective bargaining, and these affect wage fixing and remuneration settlements in particular. Governments are implementing unilateral wage policies through rigid wages guidelines. As a consequence, both the trade unions and the managers of the State enterprises lost their autonomy in collective bargaining.On labour standards, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Declaration of Labour and Industrial Relations Principles, based on international labour standards and other international instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are the relevant labour standards. The Caricom Declaration on Labour and IR is an important policy guide on labour matters and can contribute to the conduct of industrial relations both in the Public and Private Sectors. This Declaration is also consistent with Caricom’s Charter of Civil Society, expanded on labour standards, and is intended to be used as the basis for the development of national labour policies, and to inform the enactment of modern labour legislation in member States.For labour relations in the public service, the right to bargain collectively as defined in ILO Conventions Nos. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, and 151 on Labour Relations in the Public Service, ratified by Caricom Countries and Guyana are International Treaties, raise several questions in connection with the approach by public authorities. For example, an administrative direction whereby the conclusion of an agreement is subject to prior approval of a Government authority, or modifying conditions agreed and written in collective labour agreements, or preventing negotiations of such conditions as may be considered desirable, constitute infringements of the right to bargain collectively. Restrictive measures that render it extremely difficult for wages to be settled freely through collective bargaining in the Public Sector can be justified on the grounds of exceptional circumstances of a serious economic nature. However, this could be justified only for a limited period and kept to a minimum.Convention No 151 with its Recommendation No 159 provides for: protection of public employees’ right to organise; non-interference by public authorities; negotiation or participation in determining terms and conditions of employment; and machinery for settling disputes concerning terms and conditions of employment. This Convention 151 provides for public servants to have the same rights of representation and negotiations in Industrial Relations as outlined in Convention 87 and Convention 98 in keeping with good labour relations between public authorities and public service unions/associations.Settlement of disputes in the public service: The settlement of disputes relating to the determination of terms and conditions of employment shall be sought through negotiations between the parties or through independent and impartial machinery such as conciliation/mediation, and arbitration (Convention No 151 – Article 8). In keeping with the provisions of this Guyana ratified Convention, the persons or bodies competent to negotiate on behalf of the public authority concerned and the procedure for giving effect to the agreed terms and conditions of employment should be given a full mandate to finality.Yours faithfully,Samuel J Goolsarranlast_img read more

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