Stirling Smith was in Bangladesh for a week, and talked about cricket – and social dialogue.
I've just been in Dhaka, training our JETI knights (if you don’t understand that, read this) and factory managers on the many advantages of social dialogue.
My visit coincided with two absorbing test matches played between England and the “Tigers”, as the Bangladesh cricket team are known. And as everybody wanted to talk about cricket, I spent a lot of time comparing "the summer game" with social dialogue.
If you don't like cricket, now is the time to turn away.
Worker elections, why have them?
I usually convince managers that they need to listen to workers - even set up a joint committee. But then they say, “Why can’t we choose the best workers? Why have an election, it will only disturb the factory?”
They have a point. Parliamentary and local government elections in Bangladesh – and the sub-continent in general – can be trying affairs, with corruption, violence, “booth capturing” and all kinds of things you would not want in your factory.
So, I wave a cricket bat in the air, play imaginary, wonderful strokes, and explain why they DO need an election.
When the selectors choose a team to tour England, say or Australia, don’t you look at the list and say: “Oh, why haven’t they chosen X? He would be much better on the English/Australian pitches. Or “no, no, Y would be better able to cope with the seam bowlers.”
All cricket fans would choose a better team than the selectors (this is true, by the way).
But when the team goes out to play, all fans support them and shout “Joy (victory) Tigers”.
That’s just like a workers’ election. Maybe managers could choose better people, more suitable representatives, than the ones chosen by the workers through the election. But it is important that management supports them, as they are the team chosen by the workers.
In fact, in every factory where elections have been held, workers have enjoyed the opportunity to vote in a proper election, and there is almost a festive atmosphere.
Winning isn’t everything
When Bangladesh started playing test cricket, they lost every match. It's still one of the weaker sides in the first division of cricket playing countries although in this latest series they did win their first ever test match over England. So they're improving. That's good, as the best matches are those between two evenly matched sites. If one side continually steamrollers the opposition, and another side is always losing, it makes watching the game rather boring.
Of course, in cricket we all want our side to win, but some of the most interesting cricket matches have ended in a draw, after five days!
Which leads me to my next point. Five-day test matches must be the longest sporting contests around. Likewise, social dialogue is not a sprint. It is not 20/20 cricket, over in a few hours. In fact, it never ends.
And then there is the elusive "spirit of cricket", which appears in the laws of cricket but is nowhere defined.
Social dialogue needs a certain kind of spirit as well. It's about treating the other party as equals, it’s about collective bargaining in good faith, it's about trying to seek solutions that work for both sides. It's not a winner takes all.
It is going to take a long time to develop that culture in somewhere like Bangladesh – and we could do with a dose of it in the UK.
Talking about cricket is fine in Bangladesh, or India, or Pakistan. But what am I going to say in Turkey?
You will have to wait for another blog.