West Indies contracts row September 5, 2009

WICB denies mediator's claims

Cricinfo staff

The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has defended itself in the aftermath of the breakdown of negotiations with the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) and rejected the claim made by mediator Shridath Ramphal that the late addition of a new set of requirements by the board had resulted in the failure to resolve the dispute.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is likely to broker a solution to the current impasse. "With talks breaking down at the last moment during the mediation, the issues will now have to be taken to the Caribbean Court of Justice for arbitration," WICB's external legal counsel, Derek Ali, said at a press conference.

The new move is the latest development in the controversy surrounding West Indies cricket over the last month, resulting in under-strength squads being selected for the recent Bangladesh series and the upcoming Champions Trophy in South Africa. Big names like Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan opted out due to pay and contractual disputes.

The attempt at finding a resolution, according to Ramphal, failed after the WICB produced "an alternative document" during negotiations, which was unacceptable to the WIPA. The claim, however, was denied by the board's industrial relations consultant, Gerald Pinard, who said the WICB had done nothing wrong by sending the document to Ramphal.

"We hear talk that the WICB sent in a document that derailed the process and we walked out," Pinard said. "This is surprising to hear because what we sent in was a draft agreement outlining what was agreed upon and what was to go to arbitration. This document sent to Ramphal on August 31 was not much different from the first one we sent in on August 29."

However, despite WICB's denials, the Trinidad-based Sunday Express claimed to have obtained copies of both WICB draft agreements with the second draft including nine new points. One of the key diiferences between the two drafts, the report claimed, involved recognition for WIPA. The first draft (August 29) says that "WIPA is the body recognised by the WICB as representing the collective interests of West Indian cricketers", but the subsequent draft (August 31) draft states that "the issue was not agreed between the Parties and must be referred to Arbitration."

Pinard also defended the WICB's decision to retain a makeshift squad for the ODI series against Bangladesh, despite the senior players, who had boycotted the Test series, making themselves available for selection. Gayle and other senior players offered their services for selection in light of the Georgetown Agreement in Guyana where the disputing parties agreed to negotiations with the CARICOM-appointed Ramphal acting as mediator.

Pinard clarified that though the leading players had declared themselves "available" for selection, there were not yet 'eligible', for the agreement made no mention of automatic reinstatement upon ending their strike. Moreover, Pinard added, the ODI squad for the Bangladesh series had already been selected on July 20, a day before the agreement in Guyana.

He also accused Ramphal of breaching the rules of procedure of the mediation process by not adhering to the code of confidentiality of negotiations with issues still pending resolution. In an e-mail to Ramphal, dated August 31, the WICB had said: "We are hopeful that with the concurrence of WIPA we shall be able to conclude the mediation process tomorrow [September 1] on that basis." It added that "details of the Mediation Agreement be sealed as between the parties and the Mediator pending the final resolution by arbitration of the remaining unresolved items".

However, in the wake of Ramphal's statement on the collapse of negotiations, the Confidentiality Clause, which states that "the Parties shall maintain the confidentiality of the Mediation", Pinard said, had been breached. "We are satisfied that, based on the public comments made by WIPA and the mediator and which have received widespread coverage, the Confidentiality Clause in the Rules of Procedure has been breached," he told reporters.

Ali added that Ramphal did not see it fit to stop the process when WIPA president Dinanath Ramnarine twice missed meetings, supposedly holidaying with his family in Tobago.

"The mediator said that the facilitators of both parties were to be present in order to deal with the process," Ali said. "He said that other members could have been replaced but not the facilitator. The WICB stuck to this, however, WIPA facilitator, Ramnarine did not show a commitment to the process."

WICB president Julian Hunte also slammed Ramnarine for having not taken the mediation process seriously. "It is also worthwhile noting that at the meeting on August 31, 2009 from which the WIPA facilitator [Ramnarine] had absented himself to proceed on vacation with his family in Tobago, with the agreement of Ramphal, the WICB team informed the mediator of its strong disapproval of the WIPA facilitator's absence and its concern that WIPA was not taking the proceedings seriously enough," the WICB president wrote in a letter addressed to Bharrat Jagdeo, the CARICOM chairman and Guyana president.

Meanwhile, Ramnarine said the players' body would meet in Guyana on Saturday to discuss their next move.