It would appear that my letter to Stabroek News (‘Ministry of Labour should avoid a perception of bias in disputes,’ SN, February 17) was taken out of context since I meant no disrespect to the officials of the Ministry of Labour, some of whom are still my colleagues. However, as a former Assistant Chief Labour Officer employed in the 21st century, I am very much disappointed in the content of their response.
If, in the 21st century, the new dispensation is to make decisions at conciliation such as proclaiming a strike illegal and justifying a dismissal, then there is no need to have arbitration as a procedure in the Collective Labour Agreement, since the ministry can now be deemed as the final arbiter in handling disputes.
And, based on the advice from the Ministry of Labour that a strike is illegal, the Human Resource Manager of UG and GGMC should have issued letters of dismissals to all strikers on the basis that they unilaterally withdrew their labour in breach of their contract of employment.
I have conciliated in numerous disputes and my role of impartiality dictates that when I feel strongly about one party’s position, I will talk to them separately, and if they still feel justified in their respective positions I will declare a deadlock and allow the procedure to take its course. In that way I will not be considered biased, i.e., support the position of one party in the presence of the other. I am not aware that in the 21st century that process has changed since my departure from the ministry.
The role of the ministry is conciliatory in nature, but the tone of their response clearly reflects an attitude of arrogance and intolerance for people with diverse opinions, a rather unhealthy situation for a governmental agency. And, further I say not.