Labour management cooperation

PROMALCO, an acronym, stands for Promotion of Management and Labour Cooperation.

In the period 2000-2004, the PROMALCO Project was delivered under the theme of the Promotion of Human Resource-Oriented Enterprise Strategies and Workplace Partnerships in the Caribbean. The US Department of Labour, through the International Labour Organization (ILO), funded this project.

The ILO-Caribbean Office established a PROMALCO Unit within its organization, and it undertook to manage the project in close cooperation with regional social partners. Namely the Caribbean Employers’ Confederation (CEC), the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), Caribbean governments, the Barbados Productivity Council,  Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD) and the University of the West Indies (UWI).

The timing of this move to promote social dialogue in strengthening labour management relations was opportune, as its introduction came against the backdrop of the social partners recognizing the vital role which social dialogue could play in strengthening capacity and building harmonious workplace relationships.

In recent times, one gets the sense that the mechanism of social dialogue is not being observed as readily as anticipated. Heightened industrial relations tensions which have seemingly been driven by the failure of the social partners to engage in consultation and dialogue, is becoming a serious cause for concern. It should be clearly understood among the social partners that effective communication lies at the core of industrial relations practice.

It is simply amazing to think that in the Caribbean region, the governments of all countries since the 2nd World War, have placed some emphasis on social dialogue and the consultative function. This has been between traditional social partners organizations of workers and employers. One would think that as the world faces new challenges, employers and trade unions would appreciate the need for engaging more in the process of social dialogue and consultation.

The world, as we know it, is not a utopia. In an imperfect world, there will never be perfection in the industrial relations practice. The hope is that good employee – employer management relations would become the norm rather than the exception. The fact that people are at the centre of the industrial relations practice, suggests that because of the personalities and differences in thinking and opinions, the possibility remains that the achievement of a positive outcome from any process of dialogue and/or consultation can be stalled.

The level of tension and hostility which can cloud the communication process can be directly attributed to how the opposing individuals treat to or engage each other.  Regrettably, we are often saddled with a contentious and acrimonious environment as individualism, imposed self-importance, assumed power and authority, ignorance, stubbornness, false pride and /or inflated egos tend to sully the engagement of the communication process.

The reality is that the nature of labour management cooperation which prevails at the enterprise level or that of the social partnership, can be determined by the state of the labour relations environment. Based on the increasing industrial relations tensions that are being experienced around the world, it would seem that there is a need to revisit the basis for the promotion of good labour management relations.

This brings us back to the definition of labour management cooperation. It has been defined as the joint effort of labour and capital to find solutions and remedies to problems common to each other. Whilst this definition speaks to labour and capital, it should not be taken to mean that it excludes government as an employer.

At the core of the promotion of labour management cooperation is the attainment of industrial democracy. The way to achieving industrial democracy and building harmonious working relationships, is to recognize that there must be information-sharing, problem-solving, joint consultation and worker participation in management decision making.

(Dennis DePeiza is a labour management consultant with Regional Management Services Inc. Send comments to: rmsinc

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