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Calls Telekom management the discretion of company owners

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, June 24, 2008) –The Solomon Islands Trade Disputes Panel should have no right to compel company owners to dismiss management at the behest of workers, the Chamber of Commerce (COC) and Industry says.

The chamber – which represents many leading private sector employers – issued a statement about any such move in the current Our Telekom strike.

It said it would like to draw the public's attention of the public to the serious issues raised, and the right of owners to decide who manages their investment.

Striking workers are demanding the removal of Our Telekom chief executive Martyn Robinson. The matter has been referred to the Trade Disputes Panel.

The chamber said in its statement: "The area of greatest concern for the private sector is the fear that Trade Disputes Panel can compel company owners to dismiss management at the behest of employee groups.

Whilst we recognize the rights of employees to collective bargaining, and to negotiate terms and conditions, the right and responsibility to hire management must ultimately lie with the investor.

"Trade Disputes Panel have the power to force firms to reinstate workers who were proven to have been dismissed unfairly, which the Chamber does not disagree with in principle. But this power should not extend to the authority to dismiss workers, management or otherwise, against the wishes of the management.

"Managers, as employees, also have the right to protection and owners/investors have the right to appoint anyone they see fit to run their company. Management decisions and policy may come under the jurisdiction of Trade Disputes but the appointment of management should not.

"The Chamber cannot comment on the validity of the grievances brought forward by the workers nor remark on the way in which the owners of Telekom and their management are handling the situation.

"However, we urge both parties to return to the process of dispute resolution through the Trade Disputes Panel and cease any industrial action taken to further their interests in the matter."

All avenues of dispute resolution should be exhausted before drastic measures are taken.

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