Financial Times

Mediation in the Workplace by Franklyn Amerasinghe
By Reviewed by Ravi Peiris, Director General The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon. Published by Stamford Lake Publications.

This book by Franklyn Amerasinghe is an imaginative treatise on the use of the ‘Third Side’ in conflict management and settlement at the workplace. He has been doing extensive research for the last eight years on human behaviour, and the need to understand it as a precondition, to finding lasting and acceptable solutions.

Mr. Amerasinghe is the author of many books and papers which he has presented at international fora. He is a mediator in his own right and has demonstrated a very practical and culturally oriented approach to the management and resolution of conflict. He has vast experience of handling conflict as well as of teaching the subject both here and abroad. As Mr. Sriyan de Silva commented at the book launch, Mr.Amerasinghe uses his practical experience to develop theory and at other times uses theory for the purpose of justifying practical applications.

The book has 14 chapters and commences with an introduction to mediation and how it could be used effectively, especially as a cheap and speedy substitute for litigation. He refers to Abraham Lincoln who advocated that lawyers should play a role of peacemakers and desist from encouraging litigation, which is unlikely to improve relationships at the workplace.

The book covers many aspects of the process of mediation but then focuses on how the techniques associated with mediation could be adapted by individuals to change their own thinking and bring about wise settlements even without the intervention of a third party – in other words that a party to the dispute could also train himself to think objectively and use such thinking constructively to understand how a different approach could be taken to persuading another to look for a settlement which assists in building a relationship, which in turn would sustain the employment, create a conducive environment for the employee also to prosper, and attain a higher quality of life.

A very novel approach to Collective Bargaining is advocated. The author draws inspiration from an unlikely source, namely, the socialist countries which have converted to free market policies and use government officials also as part of a bargaining process in a three cornered negotiation. From this he suggests that in our own country we could use a facilitator in Collective Bargaining which could bring about a more structured negotiation which uses the creative talents of the parties instead of separating them into two camps which are at variance – in other words they become problem solvers, which in turn, helps their self esteem. Such an approach could transform the negotiation into a process of exploration for a settlement rather than make the parties adversaries.

The book is full of examples and is ideal for a student to learn not only mediation techniques, but also to learn how to handle people and their diversity and unique thoughts. Practising the theory expounded will no doubt reduce tensions in the workplace and bring about industrial harmony.

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