Towards a new era in labour relations with WIPA Across the Board - from the West Indies Cricket Board
Stabroek News
March 30, 2003

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FOLLOWING the uncertainty generated by events of the last few days, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) believes that the way has been paved for a new era of cooperation with the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) and for a successful completion of the Carib Beer 2003 Cricket Series.

Our cricketers are just beginning to understand and appreciate the true nature of labour relations management in sports. There is no precedent for this in Caribbean sports, since cricketers are the first sportsmen in the region to be formally organised in a collective bargaining unit.

In this regard, we would like to publicly thank Evelyn Greaves, one of the leading figures in the trade union movement in Barbados, for his role in facilitating the WIPA's return to discussions with the WICB.

We are prepared to financially support training in leadership and industrial relations for the members of the WIPA as well as some of our employees. We feel this will promote more effective labour-management negotiations.

A key industrial relations focus for the WICB since January this year, which entered the public domain over the last few days, has been to follow tried and tested collective bargaining procedures with the WIPA in establishing their representation of a new bargaining group - the non-international players.

To date, the WIPA has only negotiated with the WICB on behalf of players involved in international competition. Nevertheless, the WICB was willing to unreservedly recognise the WIPA as the bargaining agent for players at the regional domestic level as long as their membership was established.

This hinged, however, upon the WIPA being able to support its claim of representing these players with documentation proving membership of the players' union and consent to be bound by the organization's negotiations.

This is standard industrial relations practice to protect the integrity of the labour-management process, the employer and, indeed, the employees themselves.

The WICB could face severe problems if agreements were made with the WIPA and most of the players had not agreed to be bound by their negotiations.

Happily, the two sides ave now agreed to start the development of a mutually agreed format for identifying membership of the organization and, once this has been achieved, immediate recognition will be given to the WIPA.

The WICB is now facing the challenge that other major sports overseas have already encountered whereby players have gained more power through organisation into an effective labour union.

We have embraced this new dispensation as part of the movement towards a more professional approach to West Indies cricket based on our stated premise that West Indies cricket is a business.

In this regard, the WICB has been instrumental in and has supported the institutional strengthening of the WIPA through subventions and inclusion in its deliberations on a wide range of issues. The WIPA has been invited to be represented at every WICB annual general meeting in recent times and there have been countless other meetings and consultations.

Collective bargaining has assisted players all over the world to realise substantial income escalation, but as in any business it is the WICB's role to maintain the correct balance between the interests of the players and cricket's many other stakeholders.

The management and staff of the WICB answer to the directors who in turn must account to their constituencies the regional cricket boards. A major challenge for the WICB is securing the finance to run the development programmes that we so dearly need and to ensure our effective participation in international competition.

Players' fees are a major expenditure item in competitions, like the Carib Beer 2003 Cricket Series, with over US $250 000 already earmarked for the players in 2003. We must, therefore, find the balance that ensures the viability of our programmes.

We must also consider the fans' interest. Fans give their unwavering support by attending matches. This weekend, for example, we desperately wanted to ensure that the fans were not disappointed and we apologise for the loss of a day's play to those who actually came to watch cricket on Friday and those who follow the matches through the media worldwide. We hope you will return to enjoy the remainder of the series.

Sponsors are another group that are incredibly important to the sustenance of the game. Without the likes of Carib Beer, our cricket simply would not be possible. This is what hurt us the most about what transpired over the last few days.

It takes plenty of work, effort and commitment for the WICB and the sponsors to reach agreements that will advance the game in the region.

The WICB, and the WIPA too, recognise that Friday's action was not good for cricket and it was not good for the sponsors. On behalf of the WICB and the WIPA, we would like to apologise publicly to Carib Brewery Ltd. for any embarrassment this might have caused.

We hope that both sides have come out of this stronger and wiser. When we look back at this experience one year from now, we hope we can all say the lessons learnt have advanced the cause of West Indies cricket in some way.

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