The new millennium has brought with it distinct problems at the workplace and in the communities, which call for new approaches in finding solutions to them. The workplace in particular has become insecure now and rapidly changing technologies are increasingly making the marketplace competitive. This has resulted in long–term careers being turned into short-term contracts, temporary work and fixed term contracts as companies restructure the labour force in order to survive. The lack of job security has also brought about lack of long-term financial security. Workers' dreams of improved lifestyle are being shattered by the uncertainty of the workplace. Labour Act 651 has provided a framework for addressing some of these issues. For example, it answers how an environment can be created to restore confidence of workers and prospective job seekers in the dignity of work. The Act also answers the question on how labour and management can agree to provide job security, deliver profits, growth and progress.
Similarity, the Alternative Dispute Resolution, ADR ACT 798 is to help the workplace and communities to resolve their disputes and free the traditional adversarial courts to handle the more difficult first degree felony cases among others. Unfortunately, when most people hear the phrase ‘workplace conflict management system,’ they think of the organization’s grievance system or other formal complaint management process. In reality, most conflicts are managed or prevented automatically by every individual, minute – by - minute during the course of the work day, by using social skills that have been learnt at birth. We all started acquiring those social skills from infancy and continued through kindergarten, the school playground, and on through life. It must be stated that some conflicts escalate beyond the level at which ordinary social skills are adequate.
Sadly, most organisations have no mechanism to resolve them until they become formal complaints where a case number is assigned and with experts engaged for a do - or - die settlement. It is in this light that one commends Gamey and Gamey Academy of Mediation for the facilitated mediation aspects of a number of training programmes to fill the yawning gap between the Automatic System and the Formal Adversarial system. A facilitated mediation is a process geared towards conflicts resolution. It is characterized by negotiation between dissenting parties while an impartial third party, namely the mediator, is present.
The mediator’s job is to facilitate a process where each party has an opportunity to present their point - of view within the conflict and have a conversation to reach the best possible solutions. Often resolutions reached in mediation allow for greater flexibility and creativity than those reached in arbitration or the court. It is important for practitioners to acquire the necessary knowledge, understanding and skill as tools for managing conflicts, and preventing their further escalation. These definitely do not come naturally to most people just because they occupy certain known positions in society.
There are mediation skills that must be learned, just as medicine and engineering is learnt from experts in the field. The management of differences in relationships, is crucial so that there will be no need for the intervention of the traditional adversarial courts. Our educational institutions include in their curricula Youth Conflict Resolution and Peer Mediation topics. It will enable students – parents-teachers and school authorities to apply a facilitated mediation as a tool in resolving the numerous problems existing in our educational institutions.
This way, Ghana as a nation will also be answering the call of mentoring and coaching our youth to prevent future conflicts, when the present generation in the next decade retires from active service.
BY ASSIBI BANGUU-EKELLAH, A JOURNALIST.