I must confess that I find it very challenging to respond to a letter authored by former Assistant Chief Labour Officer, Mr D Sookdeo (‘Ministry of Labour should avoid a perception of bias in disputes,’ SN, February 17). The challenge I face in responding to him is occasioned by the fact that he appears to be ambivalent in his points of view on the role of the Ministry of Labour in general and in relation to recent industrial disputes in particular.
I agree with him that “labour disputes are not clear-cut issues,” and therefore he ought to know that before anyone can express an intellectually sound opinion on any matter they should seek to acquaint themselves with all the pertinent facts connected to that matter.
He has accused the Ministry of Labour of being biased without identifying the specifics upon which such a charge is laid. In the circumstance, I respectfully invite him to identify any situation in which bias has been established.
I wish to advise him that this ministry is fully aware of its conciliatory and conflict resolution roles which are always executed in a framework of established and acceptable rules and principles founded on neutrality and fairness, among other values.
I think that he was most presumptuous to accuse the ministry of acting in favour of one party “in both the Guyana Geology & Mines Commission (GGMC) and the University of Guyana (UG) strikes.” This clearly reveals that he may have found himself among those who relish hasty generalizations which are erroneous in preference to embracing the truth. I am convinced that if he had taken the time off to acquaint himself with the facts in relation to the GGMC and UG strikes, he may not have made the puerile allegation against the Ministry of Labour. Indeed, this is most unfortunate and pitiful.
It may not be helpful to engage him or anyone else at this point in time about the strategy and wisdom in deeming a strike illegal, but I must thank him for reminding the world at large that “it is an accepted norm that no employer would negotiate under duress while there is a strike.”
In concluding, I wish to remind him that we are fully aware of what we can and cannot do, and just in case he has not noticed, he needs to understand that we are in the 21st century where the strategies and thought process in industrial or labour-management relations are not what they used to be in the nineteen sixties and nineteen seventies.
Ministry of Labour