Mediation Programme, Critical To Businesses & Economy Mediation Manager


Declaring that productivity levels are determined by how conflicts are resolved, Mediation Manager at the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF), Ronald Mason, has argued that businesses and the country’s economy could benefit substantially from a structured and comprehensive mediation or dispute resolution programme. This, he said, increases the potential for future investment.
Mr. Mason noted that in the Jamaican workplace, among the common practices exercised by Human Resource personnel in resolving a conflict, was to resort to firing. However, he pointed out that this practice contributed to the relatively low productivity level compared with other persons similarly situated.
The attendant costs of rehiring, retraining, filling the job slot until the person is competent and capable of taking over, all come out of the bottom-line, he said.
Mr. Mason, who was addressing a recent Think Tank session at the Jamaica Information Service, is of the view that “conflict is inevitable, but conflict can be managed,” and he explained that this was the premise upon which the DRF would be hosting next month’s dispute resolution conference.
The DRF in association with the Mona School of Business (MSB) will host the 2nd Caribbean Conference on Dispute Resolution from May 12 to 14 at the Jamaica Conference Centre, Kingston.
The theme for this year’s conference is “Riding The Tides Of Troubled Times: 21st Century Techniques For Reducing The Cost Of Conflicts And Disputes”, and the emphasis will be on highlighting the cost-effectiveness of mediation.
He spoke of the merits of engaging in mediation as a viable solution to dealing with conflict in the workplace. The Mediation Manager stated that prolonged downtime and loss of productivity were not incurred when mediation was sought to resolve conflict.
“Almost everywhere else in the world mediation has become the focal point to initially at least try to resolve conflict,” he emphasised. He, however, cautioned that there were instances that could not be resolved by mediation because the mediator was not a judge, but was instead “a facilitator of a process, to get the parties involved in the conflict, speaking to each other, arriving at a solution that they can bind to.”
“No business can operate with a managerial structure that says ‘You do as I say’. It can’t happen anymore,” Mr. Mason informed. He stressed that there is need for co-operation and a movement from ‘direction’ to ‘involvement’ that gives rise to leadership.
He cited examples of the types of problems that may arise in the workplace. “In Jamaica there are a lot of ‘personality conflicts’. Two people in the same department don’t like each other, and work-flow slows down. People don’t come to work because they don’t want to deal with the other person,” he said. Simple personality conflicts should not be allowed to spread and fester and impact on the company’s productivity, he warned.
The three-day conference is a meeting of the minds from across the Caribbean region and North America, and will provide a forum for conflict resolution practitioners, policy makers, researchers, mediators and the general public to meet, share knowledge and experiences, exchange ideas and best practices in conflict/dispute resolution, as well as promote the use of mediation in the courts by business interests and communities.
“The conference is designed to enlighten the business community that these techniques are available and that they should utilise them. There are some multi-national corporations that have been using them for years,” Mr. Mason said.
He cited the Jamaica Bauxite Company as one such example. “Their contracts require mediation. If you have a dispute with them, you must take it to mediation first, so it never gets to court,” he continued.
The conference is expected to attract participants from the region including persons from Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica and the Bahamas, who will be taught how to resolve conflicts within the workplace as well as matters of justice and the legal system.
Participants will also be educated about the resolution of disputes inside communities and schools.A number of overseas presenters have been confirmed for the conference, including American Paul Kivel, trainer, activist, writer and violence prevention educator; Professor Roberta Mitchell, Co-director of the Centre for Dispute Resolution at the Capital University Law School in Ohio; adjunct professor of Law, Scott Dewhirst and Professor of Law, Terrance Wheeler, both of Capital University; and Noelle Chutkan, a Florida-based attorney-at-law, arbitrator, trainer and co-founder of the DRF in Jamaica.
According to Mr. Mason, the team from the Capital University Law School, in conjunction with the Jamaica Bar Association, brought the concept of mediation to Jamaica in 1989, and were returning to see how the country had progressed over the past 15 years.
A team of local presenters including University of the West Indies lecturers Dr. Anthony Harriot, Dr. Aldrie Henry-Lee, Dr. Henry Cowell, Dr. Allan Bernard and Dr. Orville Taylor will join these presenters. Janilee Abrikian, General Manager of PALS Jamaica and Marcia Forbes, former General Manager of Television Jamaica (TVJ) will also make presentations at the conference.
Some of the panel discussions over the three days include, “Court-based Mediation: Benefits and Burdens”, “Changing Legal Culture in Jamaica”, “How Large Corporations Use Mediation”, “Conflict Management at Work in an Era of Low Worker Protection” and “Keeping Women and Children Safe while Fostering Development through Security and Peace.”
There will also be skill-building workshops for DRF mediators, who will be taught how to perform pre-mediation assessments.
The conference is open to the general public at a cost of $3000 per day, inclusive of lunch and other refreshments. Organisations and businesses interested in attending or participating in the conference may contact the Dispute Resolution Foundation at 906-2456 or 908-3657.

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