By: Precious Mills
BASSETERRE, St.Kitts (Tuesday 21st November) – On Monday 20th November, a Collective Agreement was signed between the St.Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union and Courts/Unicomer (St.Kitts-Nevis) Ltd.
Union representative General Secretary Batumba Tak along with Senior Manager Trudi Lewis Allen; Rudolph Stephens- Customer Relations Officer (and Shop Steward for work relations dealings with management as a Union representative) and Assistant Shop Steward Akimmer Gillard (assistant shop steward) of Courts assembled at the company’s compound located on Bay Road for that day’s business, jointly added their signatures to the document.
As understood, a shop steward is elected by workers of a company, department or organisation.
This reporter, who is the staff representative on the Union’s executive committee, was on hand to witness the signing and also got the opportunity to observe and chit-chat with those present.
“Well, the document represents a working relationship between the staff, management and the Labour Union. We basically want to continue building this relationship and making sure that we work together for the common interest of all parties involved,” stated Lewis Allen.
Asked what the negotiation period was like, she informed that the part she took over leading up to the signing of the Agreement “was smooth; not many disagreements.”
Tak chimed in saying: “When issues came up, we definitely got them worked out in my view and many times when issues came up, we discussed them along the way because we have a good working relationship and hopefully that will continue so that we can build on that going forward.”
According to the Courts senior official (Lewis Allen): “Management looks towards a continuous good relationship. Most of the times when we have an issue, it is quickly quashed and sorted out amicably. I mean once it’s brought to the attention of management (then) management usually takes it on and even the persons who are not on island-those overseas- they are in constant contact with the Union and staff.”
Commenting on the role of the Union in partnering with business places in reaching those types of Agreements Tak replied: “Well, we try our best to ensure that things run smooth here and that we have a positive relationship. That’s why the Union is trying to get the shop stewards involved completely because they are the ones who are here on the ground so they should have answers to give to me even if I come here to represent as well. They are the ones who know the issues and how we could address them so I always look forward to them bringing whatever issue to me should there be a case that they don’t get through with management but most of the time, they get through even before they reach to me and I look forward to that as well. I think the company is a good company and it is growing and I hope that the staff members who are here are satisfied with whatever is taking place and are sharing the benefits of the company as well.”
Lewis Allen also told that management is always looking at ways of improving the relationship between themselves and staff.
“Also, the aim is to ensure that our core objectives are upheld each time. The company always wants to make sure that the staff is happy and wanting to work. We have always tried to build this relationship where the staff feels very comfortable to go to their supervisors or managers to discuss issues that are affecting them even before it gets to the Union.”
She added: “So it’s something that we want to continue and the role of the Union is very important; it gives the staff stability and trust when they know they have an outside third party that they could refer issues to, it makes them feel company will take them more seriously once they have a third party on hand. The company wants to get to a point where the staff is very comfortable with managers to come to us with issues even before it reaches the Union which we are really trying to get at because some issues can be dealt with before it escalates and we’ve always tried to do that but the Union gives a sense of assurance and reassurance that it is going to be done on their behalf.”
This week, in speaking with Deputy Labour Commissioner Dion Webbe whose signature is also included on the Agreement, he congratulated both parties for having come to the understanding for such a document which he believes is essential to work place productivity.
“It is a very good agreement. I think that all work places should have an Agreement like this. This is like a bible for the workplace. Every work place should have this. I don’t know why some places would shy away from having one of these Agreements.”