Resolving biz disputes by mediation preferable

Companies involved in business disputes should resolve their differences through mediation rather than costly and time consuming litigation, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce said.

These firms should take extreme care in handling disputes at the initial stages since if people directly involved in a dispute engage in unnecessary arguments and damaging correspondence they will soon reach the point when there is no hope of a reconciliation, it said in a statement.

"Business relationships, whether they are long standing or new, should be preserved and it is in the interests of both parties to handle disputes in a manner which will not damage them."

The chamber said companies should make use of the several alternative dispute resolution mechanisms available today, such as mediation, conciliation and arbitration.

The Commercial Mediation Centre was established on the initiative of the business community to conduct proceedings to settle disputes by mediation and conciliation. These services are quick, inexpensive, private and confidential.

Mediators attached to the centre are trained in conflict resolution and are drawn from the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Ceylon National Chamber of Industries, Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the National Chamber of Commerce.

They perform an honorary service for the benefit of the business community.

The chamber said that at the first sign of a dispute, the parties are advised to obtain the assistance of a neutral third party as mediator, and mediate the dispute.

If the dispute is mediated before relationships are strained, the parties are more likely to work together to resolve it with the assistance of the mediator.

In mediation, the parties themselves generate options and find a solution acceptable to them.

The mediator only assists in the process of searching for a solution.

Some organisations involved in disputes may prefer a neutral third party, the conciliator, suggest a solution to the parties, who are free to accept it or reject it. This process is known as conciliation.

Company legal officers and departmental managers could play a major role in the careful handling disputes at the initial stages and seek the services of a mediator or conciliator to resolve them.

The chamber said that whenever there are signs of a dispute, the CEO of the company should become aware of it from the very outset and be able to assess the impact of the dispute on the company. He must decide whether it is of such magnitude that he should take the problem immediately under his wing or delegate it to another.

Those involved in disputes should remember to avoid arguments and correspondence which could disrupt the relationship, take the problem away from those directly involved in it and entrust it to someone who is able to look at it objectively, and gather all documentary evidence relating to the problem and keep in safe custody.

In the past, after taking all the wrong steps, parties consulted their lawyers and filed action in court. At the end of a year or two, when the costs of litigation begin to mount, the parties would explore ways and means of settling the case with the other party.

"The large majority of the cases filed in court end up in this manner," the chamber said. "Wouldn't it be better to settle cases amicably in the first instance?"

JobsNet taking good shape

JobsNet, the national employment sourcing and delivery system that was launched in Agalawatte recently, has attracted a good response from job seekers and employers.

The Agalawatte Centre has matched several job seekers to suitable posts and is making substantial progress in processing applications that are coming in from job seekers and employers, said the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, which is managing the project.

JobsNet is a national employment project managed by the private sector for the benefit of job seekers and employers based on a completely transparent system, driven on the principle of meritocracy, it said in a statement.

The project is expected to be fully operational by the end of April.

JobsNet is designed as a public-private sector initiative aimed at establishing an efficient system to set up a job bank and a data bank of unemployed, underemployed and "disenchanted" labour, the Chamber said.

Employers registered with JobsNet could upload their job vacancies to the JobsNet system, which offers a job bank with direct input by job seekers or service centre assistants. It also permits job seekers to obtain company profiles and search systems for suitable matches.

JobsNet can also direct candidates to training institutes and career guidance services and support those seeking self-employment with information and relevant assistance.

It is planning to establish a computer-based service network of 17 "Rekiya Piyas" or JobsNet Service Centres to provide easier access to Sri Lankans seeking employment and for employers seeking persons to be employed both locally and abroad.

The system can be used in Sinhala, Tamil and English.

The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce said it is looking for dynamic professionals to join the JobsNet.

The project is an initiative of the Ministry of Employment and Labour with initial funding from Norway.

The International Labour Organisation is helping to train the customer care staff of the JobsNet project.

New company to manage Mahapola funds

The Mahapola Trust Fund has floated a new fund management company to better utilise its financial resources and seek opportunities for future diversifications. Director General Mahapola, Ms. Shamila Perera said the new company was a proposal of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake. It will manage the investment of funds under the Mahapola Board of trust, which was split into Mahapola Treasury Division and Mahapola Board Of Management last year, with the view to separate scholarships and other activities of the fund.

A Commerce Ministry statement said under the reforms, the treasury division will look after the scholarship activities and the Mahapola Board of Management, while a new organisation will be established to manage a range of activates including skills development, vocational training, school development and the Mahapola trade fair so far conducted by the ministry.

The Fund was established in 1981 by an Act of Parliament Act aimed at administrating the Mahapola scholarships for university students and to conduct various projects for the benefit of youths, students and academic community.

New debenture issue from Seylan Merchant Leasing

Seylan Merchant Leasing Limited (SMLL), a subsidiary of Seylan Merchant Bank (SMB), has announced the launch of a new issue of four-year unsecured, subordinated, redeemable and unlisted debentures to the value of Rs. 50 million to raise funds for the company's leasing activities. The new debentures of Rs. 100 denomination carry an option to raise a further Rs. 50 million in the event of an oversubscription. Interest rates would range from 14.5 percent, with interest payment annually, to 14 percent, with interest payment monthly. The minimum subscription is Rs. 10,000. Seylan Merchant Leasing was incorporated on July 31, 2000 and commenced operations in August 2000.

It wants to develop and market a diverse range of value-added leasing products. The company declared a post tax profit of Rs. 6.52 million for the first six months of 2002.

The company has been registered by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka as a Registered Finance Leasing Establishment under the Finance Leasing Act No. 56 of 2000.

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