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New world order brings fresh approach to trade unions

Barbados Daily Nation, Monday 24 July 2000

Globalisation is impacting on the way companies react to the local trade union.

The negative view once held by companies is transforming into one in which employers are realising that in order to get the desired productivity the needs of the workers must be given greater consideration.

Robert "Bobby" Morris deputy general secretary of the Barbados Workers' Union, the island's largest trade union body, said the grim structural adjustments of the 1990s and the pending globalisation had significantly changed the way companies approached the business of the union and labour.

"The onset of globalisation and the structural adjustment have changed the managers" perception about labour management. The protocol agreement has also established room for dialogue," Morris said.

Based on negotiations with these companies Morris listed about seven of them which displayed exceptional labour consciousness even though they had only been in negotiation with the union for three years or less. Among them is Julie "N which the union once threatened with court action, Harrisons, SMJ Beverages, Barclays Bank, Harris Paints and Carnaudmetal box.

A noticeable feature in the companies which are now embracing the whole notion of trade unionism is that they either have human resources officers, a human resource department or is willing to spend a little more for a human resources consultant to give them guidance.

"Companies are willing to share information and have no problem whatsoever in providing the information. They are productivity driven and recognise that they cannot do it unless the workforce is in order. In all there is a lot more willingness to change," Morris explained.

One of the major innovations in many companies is the performance related pay and job evaluation which in some cases were implemented without the union having to request them.

"Some companies have been very innovative and willing to explore change. Although there is strong management orientation there hasn't been a lot of anti-union sentiment," Morris explained.

Another area which companies have placed greater emphasis is providing counselling for workers. The union has already set up a special unit to assist workplaces with counselling sessions for employees.

Morris surmised that the time had arrived when employers and Barbados as a whole realised internal fighting is not necessary but instead a united approach to fighting the external world.