By Gautam Kumaraswamy
The WICB release of Tuesday August 9,2011 was one that really aimed to mislead the public rather than provide the real facts that characterize the nature of the relationship between the WICB and WIPA. The WICB ought to remember that the West Indian cricket fan is an intelligent being that is able to critically analyze the issues surrounding West Indies cricket. It is with this background that I see it necessary to analyze certain key points, including the blatant untruths and hypocrisy, of the WICB release from such a discerning fan viewpoint:
“West Indies cricket has had to endure player strikes and threat of strikes with such intensity over the last few years that the public has questioned the capacity of the two bodies to work productively together. The affairs of West Indies cricket cannot continue to be conducted in a setting where cricket is always held hostage to the threat of player strikes or where negotiations or discussions always descend into a war of attrition.”
While it is certainly attractive to paint the situation as one that is always strike threatened in order to scare fans, the fact is that over the past two years there have been no strikes or no threat of strikes in West Indies cricket. Such statements that seek to scare fans that the threat of strikes are occurring do not serve a useful purpose. Secondly, as a fan I accept that our players can use a strike as a legitimate tool of pressure in order to achieve respect and fair conditions at the workplace. The West Indian culture accepts and embraces workers who go on strike and there was large scale support for the last player withdrawal of services against Bangladesh in 2009. I say without any qualms that many diehard fans including myself support our players when they need to go on strike and so as a fan I am not angry when players do strike. My anger is directed at the conditions that exist such that the players see it necessary to go on strike.
“It is the reason for these negotiations taking place – to ensure that there is a framework that meets the demands of the fast changing cricket landscape. We cannot remain trapped in the past. It is the reason why the Board of the WICB has mandated a transformation in the manner in which the business of the Board is conducted.”
The cricket landscape has certainly changed and as a fan I would like to see a CBA/MOU that reflects the new landscape and ensures stability in West Indies cricket. It is important that the new CBA/MOU should adapt to the new landscape while retaining the current framework of shared decision making and agreement on important player issues like contracts and scheduling.
“we expect a professional exercise of respect for rules and procedures, and we expect that a spirit of partnership will prevail.”
This is encouraging. As a fan, I have seen that the WICB has historically failed to follow agreed upon rules and procedures which has resulted in a perfect record of being on the wrong side of every arbitration regarding matters in the current CBA/MOU. That the WICB has now committed to following rules and procedures sparks hope that maybe fans can see a more harmonious industrial relations environment.
“WICB is committed to good faith collective bargaining negotiations and has appointed a core negotiating team comprising its CEO, Legal Counsel, and an external Industrial Relations Consultant.”
This was unfortunate. The WICB has failed to exhibit transparency and say who this external industrial relations consultant is so that the fans can evaluate the suitability and competence of the individual. Who is this consultant? Is the individual the same consultant, who led the Board’s negotiating team that was roundly criticized by the eminent Caribbean statesman Sir Shridath Ramphal after the mediation proceedings that he administered in 2009 broke down?
“The WICB welcomes the inclusion of new faces and fresh perspectives on the WIPA team with the involvement of Messrs Hall and Kissoon, but it must be noted that the gentlemen in question are Directors of WIPA and cannot properly be considered independent and impartial parties to the process.”
Indeed, Hall and Kissoon are Directors of WIPA but it must be noted that unlike the Board which is paying a consultant, Messrs Hall and Kissoon have no financial interest in this matter and are not being paid compensation by WIPA for their services. Both gentlemen have taken time off from their careers outside of Trinidad and Tobago and are sacrificing immense time and money in order to secure a good deal for West Indies cricket and its players. It is disappointing that the WICB did not acknowledge this and thank these two gentlemen for their pro-bono work in serving West Indies cricket.
“The WICB recognizes that player interests must be represented at all times. This is an uncompromising position and WICB will always encourage and support players’ efforts to have the best services available to them as they strive to achieve the highest levels of performance. It is for this reason that the Board has employed a Player Relations Officer to assist players to understand issues relating to anti-corruption, anti-doping, professional development, sports law and player contracts, commercial obligations, fitness and injury management, and other relevant performance related issues.”
With the hiring of a player relations officer, it should be noted that a line should be drawn between providing important information to players on various issues and offering advice to players. A WICB employee is at most times not an impartial party in advising players on various workplace issues, and care must be taken by the Board and the Player Relations officer in following the spirit of the ILO Conventions especially Convention 87 Article 2.1: “Workers’ and employers’ organisations shall enjoy adequate protection against any acts of interference by each other or each other’s agents or members in their establishment, functioning or administration.” The Player relations officer should especially refrain from advising players on the use of their rights in the current CBA/MOU that was negotiated by their bargaining agent WIPA.
Indeed while the WICB highlights the hiring of a Player Relations officer, the fact is the Board has not used her in certain critical player relations issues. For example, the player relations officer was not involved in the WICB’s meeting with Chris Gayle and more recently the Board did not include the Player Relations officer, who they say is versed in contract and other sports law issues, on their negotiating team for the new CBA/MOU, preferring instead to incur an increased financial burden for an outside consultant.
Workers’ and employers’ organisations shall enjoy adequate protection against any acts of interference by each other or each other’s agents or members in their establishment, functioning or administration.” The Player relations officer should especially refrain from advising players on the use of their rights in the current CBA/MOU that was negotiated by their bargaining agent WIPA.
“The WICB has not proposed at any time to repudiate the status of WIPA as the collective bargaining representative for all West Indies Players.”
This was a direct response to WIPA’s press release. However on careful reading one would see that WIPA asserted that the Board proposed that WIPA will no longer be the exclusive bargaining agent for West Indian players. While the WICB has said they have not proposed repudiating the status of WIPA as bargaining agent for all West Indian players, they did not use the word exclusive in their release and so it would be helpful if they could clarify if they are proposing the same language quoted below that is in the current CBA and if not what is the rationale for such a change:
”The WICB hereby recognizes WIPA as the exclusive representative and bargaining agent for Players who have been selected for their Territorial Teams and for the West Indies Cricket Team including the Retained Players.”
“The WICB has no intention of unilaterally changing or repudiating any agreement between the parties, but certainly does not accept that the MOU and CBA negotiated in 2005 were intended to remain unchanged in perpetuity. At no time has the WICB sought to unilaterally end the agreements ….It is therefore WICB’s view that on September 30, 2011 the existing arrangements will expire, unless an agreement can be reached before such date.”
This was a clear contradiction on the WICB’s part. Here the WICB has said that they have no intention of unilaterally ending the current CBA/MOU, however in the next paragraph say they will end the current agreement on September 30,2011 if no new agreement is reached. It must be noted that the CBA states clearly in Article VI that the current agreement stays in full force until a new agreement is signed by both parties and there: ” Subject to clauses (a) and (b) of this Article, the terms of the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement, Memorandum of Understanding, WICB Player Contract, WICB Match / Tour Contract & Territorial Match Contract shall remain in force until revised and such revisions signed by the Parties to the agreement.”
The WICB also says that the stipulations in the current CBA/MOU indicate a limit on the length of time the agreement continues in full force. This is patently false. Article VI or no other Articles in the CBA indicate a limit on time as to how long the CBA/MOU remains in full force. Indeed, Article V of the CBA guarantees that the current CBA/MOU would remain in full force through September 30,2008 and Artcile VI of the CBA makes it clear that the current agreement stays in full force until a new one is agreed to by both parties. If the WICB does end the current agreement in violation of Article VI, then one can only imagine the big lawsuit that will be filed by WIPA for such a gross violation.
“It is instructive also that, under the governing Trinidad and Tobago labour legislation, namely the Industrial Relations Act Ch. 88:01, a collective agreement may be in force for a term not exceeding five (5) years.”
Here the WICB attempts to buttress its position to end the agreement by indicating that labour laws in Trinidad and Tobago stipulate a maximum duration for collective agreements. The WICB’s assertion that the Industrial Relations Act of Trinidad and Tobago applies and more specifically the collective agreements regulations shows clearly their incompetence in reading and comprehending important documents. The Industrial Relations Act clearly defines a collective agreement as one between an employer and a recognized majority union, and the IRA also defines a union as one that is registered under the Trade Unions Act of Trinidad and Tobago.
WIPA is clearly not a registered Trade Union under such act and is instead a registered company under the Companies Act of Trinidad and Tobago and hence the agreement falls under Section 26 of the Companies Act of Trinidad and Tobago which indicates that a agreement between two companies is binding. The current CBA/MOU is not under the ambit of the Industrial Relations Act of Trinidad and Tobago and it serves no useful purpose for the WICB to, as they often say, “peddle such untruths.”
“The WICB has noted the view expressed by WIPA that WICB intends to vary the Provident Fund and wish to assure all the beneficiaries of the Fund, which includes Secretariat Staff, that this is totally untrue “
This statement is very interesting. First of all the WICB has not indicated if they have recently varied the terms of the Provident Fund. Secondly is the WICB’s attitude that it controls policy changes to the Provident Fund. It must clearly be noted that the management of the Provident Fund is supposed to be a shared process between WIPA and the WICB as outlined by Article XV b) of the MOU:
”There shall be a management committee comprising two (2) representatives of WICB, three (3) representatives of fund members, two (2) of whom are nominated by the WIPA and an independent chairperson agreed upon by both parties.”
What is the status of this management committee? Has the WICB ensured that the Committee has met regularly in order to set important policy about the Provident Fund and ensure its prudent management?
“It is true, however, that the WICB believes that it is not in the interest of all players to continue with the present system where about 82% of all players’ payments go to international players. This leaves regional players struggling to make a sustainable living and career from cricket….The WICB intends to propose a system where more money will be available to regional players.”
This is especially heartening seeing that prior to 2003 the WICB failed to increase match fees for more than 12 years which was aided by the incompetence of the previous WIPA administration under CEO David Holford and Chairman Roland Holder. Indeed it took a historic WIPA-organized player strike in 2003 to effect an increase to player fees. Also, despite the CBA/MOU asserting that the match fees be varied on a time to time basis after agreement by both parties, no increase took place until 2009 when player frustration boiled over and another strike took place and resulted in a 300 percent increase in match fees.
Indeed, it is the WICB that that cut the number of First Class matches in 2010, and so for the WICB to lament the share percentage when it cut player incomes due to its ill advised decision to have our regional players play less cricket is laughable at best. Lest it be remembered that WICB CEO Ernest Hilaire in response to WIPA’s objections said that the reason why the 2010 format was shortened from 14 to 7 rounds was because the financial resources of the Board were not able to fund 14 rounds with the new round of player fee increases in 2009. It is most interesting now that the WICB is saying that the system is flawed and that more money needs to go to regional players. The net result which the WICB failed to report in their release was that regional player total compensation based on the Financial Statements fell from 2 million in 2009 to 1.5 million in 2010. The WICB thus imposed a 25 percent compensation cut on regional players in 2010 leaving many players “struggling to make a sustainable living and career from cricket”
It is the WICB that has created such an unequal system as they assert and has shown no previous moves to positively increase player compensation on its own volition. Hopefully the WICB will complete the details of this proposal quickly so that regional players can get even more compensation as well as important benefits that deal with their health and security . It is important to reward the regional players who provide great work in maintaining a functional first class cricket competition under difficult circumstances. Hopefully the WICB’s new proposal will mean regional players will no longer be put up in substandard accommodation like the dormitories at Couva in Trinidad and Tobago where more than 10 players had to share one bathroom.
“The WICB is also of the view that players should be compensated for performance and will advocate for a system in which players are motivated to perform. The WICB believes that such player compensation formula must be located in a broader context where resources can be guaranteed for cricket development in the communities, schools and clubs thereby securing the future of West Indies cricket.”
The WICB already has in place a system that rewards performance. The WICB pays players a bonus for winning matches under their match/tour agreement. Territorial Players have a great incentive to perform well as selection to the West Indian cricket team would mean their incomes would experience massive growth. Marginal international players who perform well can increase their incomes by obtaining retainer contracts as well as retained players with lower grade contracts can move up in grade and pay with better performances. Finally players who perform exceptionally well especially in the shorter forms of the game can tap their value in the lucrative international cricket market. To say that the current system, with its various pay grades and rates based on the level of cricket and player competence, does not provide incentives to players to perform is totally false. While incentives can be tweaked, the more fundamental issue that needs to be addressed is to ensure a professional respect for players and their work environment and rights. Increased player satisfaction and confidence in their work environment could result in more positive performances.
The WICB and WIPA need to agree to a new CBA/MOU. However, based on the indications of the WICB press release a radical change of approach is needed in order to reach such an agreement that is mutually beneficial and satisfactory to both parties. The WICB’s historical record in dealing with players has not been stellar and the Board needs to practise a new way of dealing with players and most importantly following the agreements that it undertakes. Hope however must spring eternal for the good of West Indies cricket.
- Gautam is an avid West Indies Cricket Supporter and a frequent contributor to WiCricNews.com’s Facebook Page.