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NASSAU, The Bahamas – Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, Friday addressing the closing session of the five-day Alternative Dispute Resolution Certificate Workshop at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Studies, The College of The Bahamas on May 28. Participants in the workshop included employers, unions and government.
NASSAU, The Bahamas – Dispute resolution is one of the most challenging issues in the country today, Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie said Friday, (May 28) at the close of the five-day Alternative Dispute Resolution Certificate Workshop held at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Studies, The College of The Bahamas. Though the theme of the workshop matter of the week – alternative ways of resolving issues on the job in the industrial sector has been of a “specialized nature”, said the Prime Minister, conflict resolution, as a subject matter, impacts Bahamians in their everyday national life. “If one were to look at the criminal statistics, one would see that over 50 percent of the crimes that had to do with murders . . .originated with domestic disputes – irreconcilable differences – that are governed by emotion, that runs amok”.
“And so I begin with admonishing all of you to see yourselves as being very special persons, who have taken time out to expose yourselves to precepts and practices, with a view to taking them back into the work place and implementing them for the general good of the business you’re in,” he said. He also told participants to extend what they have learned, shared, acquired, to the community in which they live. It is not good enough to be specialists, or perfect practitioners of all they have shared at the workshop, and then to walk out of their job place into a culture where there is hostility, and where there should be understanding that a person could disagree and not be disagreeable.
“Advocate it to the other institutions or entities that you are a part of because, unless there is momentum and movement in the direction of our addressing a culture of lethargy or indifference, then you are not going to be successful in what you are set out to do” the Prime Minister said. This Bahamas, he said, because of its vulnerable dependence on the twin pillar industries of tourism and financial services, must look to trade union leaders and employers to understand the importance of avoiding conflict.
“When one looks at The Bahamas, I continue to advocate the need to understand our country, understand the challenges of our country. Unlike any country in the hemisphere, we are a chain of islands over 100,000 square miles. The Government of The Bahamas has profound challenges to be able to ensure that every Bahamian has an equal stake in the revenue of the country and the development process of the country,” he said. According to the Prime Minister, unions have an obligation to keep track of these things.
“The problem is when you go into the work place, too many of you are limited to whether or not you get five percent increase in pay, what you get for Christmas. You do not commend and contribute to the national good that creates the basis for you being able to get your five percent.”
“The strength of our country, the magnetism for investment, is based on FNMs and PLPs being able to sit at a table and not concern themselves two three years before the election about being FNMs and PLPs, but concern yourselves about what we could agree to move our country further ahead,” he said. Prime Minister Christie said The Bahamas, has been held back by “cannibalistic” practices.
“Where brother want to eat brother and sister want to eat sister, and this politician hard and this one’s soft and this one scared of this one,” he said. “When you have an intellect you are scared of nobody. You’re either right or wrong, but you have a view. I’m talking about a new culture in our country, taking the same culture that has been advocated by the lecturers and expanding it throughout nation.”
“You are not going to be successful in this country by limiting the principles of the workshop – working out a dispute without breaking up the economy or breaking up the job place. Rational, civilized approach to dispute resolution is what you have been talking about. That my friends, must be the message that goes into boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, church brother and church sister, preacher and church member, work place owner, employer, manager, employee.”
Obie Ferguson, president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), said employers and the trade unions sitting at the same table looking at how best they can resolve their differences says something about The Bahamas’ industrial relations for the future. The only way the country can continue to progress, said Mr. Ferguson, is if employees and employers are a part of the process.
“The message that I would want to convey to the Bahamian public is that we believe strongly in partnership. We believe that our economy cannot progress until we take advantage of all of the resources we have. If you listened during the last five days, the employers, the trade unions, persons putting forth their views and some of the complicated problems that we saw, that we read, and by virtue of the fact that we were able to sit, apply some of these principles, and find a resolution, to me Prime Minister, speaks volume to the future. The Bahamas cannot and will not progress as a nation unless, and until we continue to do precisely what we are doing here. There is no way round it” said Mr. Ferguson.
The five-day alternative dispute resolution workshop was designed to get people to explore new ways of resolving disputes. According to workshop instructor Paul Godin, an ADR systems designer and litigator at Stitt Feld Handy Group, participants were taught practical hands on skills that they can use right away in the workplace or even at home to better resolve disputes, to become more effective negotiators, and to be able to mediate or facilitate conflicts more effectively.
“Most of our workshop is not teaching at people, it is about letting them have an opportunity to try these skills out, then we give them an opportunity to discuss how to use those tools in a particular exercise, they think about how they may have done things more effectively, and it is a process that allows them to digest the material but in a way that makes it usable right away instead of being information that slips out the back of your head the day after the course. They learn by doing, and even before the end of the workshop they are already starting to do things differently in their daily lives,” he said.
The workshop also focused on improving union/management relationships, and the tri-partite relationship between union, management and government, so they can negotiate and deal with one another more effectively in the future.