How mediation can help with business stability

Participants in a mediation open house at the Mediation Centre, Port of Spain, November 1, 2019.
Participants in a mediation open house at the Mediation Centre, Port of Spain, November 1, 2019.

There is no set formula or single criterion to determine what makes a good business environment, but for a country to be attractive to either domestic or foreign investment, it must be stable and efficient, particularly in certain sectors. One hidden cost that can cause significant insecurity for businesses is dispute resolution, and let’s face it: within the cut and thrust of doing business, disputes will inevitably arise.

Consequently, settling business disagreements must happen quickly and competently, so that day-to-day operations are minimally disrupted, and resulting costs do not threaten the business’ survival. Going to court is often time consuming, expensive and risky, both in terms of the possibility of an unsatisfactory outcome, and the concern that being forced to reveal business plans in open court could potentially affect market share.

Dispute resolution processes such as mediation can provide attractive alternatives, as it allows businesses to better manage its legal risk – including having control over the selection of the mediators, some of whom have very specific types of expertise.

The process tends to be faster and more streamlined than the courts, partly because they are not bound by formal rules of evidence, and because the rules of procedure are neither utilised nor required by law. Mediation is private, and generally provides more flexibility in terms of scheduling; hearings can be less formal and geared towards avoiding hostility. Most importantly, the decisions made can be formally drawn up, and subsequently enforced in any court of competent jurisdiction.

For some businesses, even before the prospect of litigation looms, a good mediator can support the resolution of potential conflict in a negotiation, or act as a mediation adviser in dispute avoidance throughout the life of a project. Many construction contracts build dispute adjudication boards into the project implementation, effectively ensuring that disputes do not end up in court, causing project stoppage and cost overruns.

Mediation is a confidential process in which a neutral third-party guides disputing parties in a constructive conversation – essentially an assisted negotiation. The mediator helps the parties express their positions and proposals, listens thoughtfully to each, clarifies issues in dispute, searches for solutions that address the needs of all and works toward a fair, workable settlement to the dispute. It involves the disputants in discussions directly and indirectly with one another, empowering them with the responsibility for the outcome.

The parties themselves are the decision-makers. This attribute, known among professional mediators as self-determination, is what makes mediation unique.

Commercial disputes can be complicated and expensive. An alternative dispute resolution clause in your contract might be one of the most practical steps you take towards safeguarding the stability and productivity of your business.

Many companies invest in mediation training of personnel as it equips them to deal with a wide variety of workplace situations that arise. Conflict may be inevitable, but finding mutually acceptable solutions is a skill that can be learned and applied. The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce currently facilitates training which also gives participants who have completed the courses the option to apply to the Mediation Board of Trinidad and Tobago (MBTT) to be certified as mediators. The next 40-hour training programme is scheduled to begin on June 9 with a 16-hour programme scheduled for July.

To find out more about mediation process and figure out how it could be useful in your business, contact 637 6966 extension 1228 or email


"How mediation can help with business stability"

More in this section