PM made ‘illegal’ move
Mottley, Thorne condemn Stuart’s referral to tribunal
As National Conservation Commission (NCC) workers wait for their day before the Employment Rights Tribunal, two prominent attorneys attacked Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s intervention in the dispute between the unions and NCC management, condemning it as illegal.
Barbados Labour Party leader Mia Mottley and Ralph Thorne not only contended last night that Stuart legally had no place in his May 25 referral of the Employment Rights Tribunal but argued that, contrary to the impression given, it is a long process.
“He has misled you on the Employment Rights Act,” Thorne told a Barbados Labour Party Christ Church South branch meeting, arguing that the Prime Minister has no legal power to refer any dispute to the Employment Rights Tribunal.
“Under this law of Barbados, the Chief Labor Officer is the person who polices the act and anytime an aggrieved worker has a complaint, under the Act – which Stuart refused to read before he came on TV last Sunday – the worker must go to the Chief Labour Officer. Of course he [the worker] can go to his union if he feels his union is representing him.
“To suggest that, in this dispute, he [Stuart] had the right to refer it is wrong. It is the Chief Labour Officer who refers it. It is no business of his. It is absolutely no business of Freundel Stuart’s. When an industrial dispute is referred to the Chief Labour Officer, that Labour Officer has six weeks within which to make an enquiry. And thereafter to refer the matter to the employment rights tribunal.”
Supporting Thorne, the Opposition Leader Mottley added: “We are far away from any regularity in the functioning of an industrial tribunal . . . . The legal resolution would never be swift.”
Further supporting Thorne’s point that after the complaint is filed, there begins a lengthy process, she said that any of the disputing parties has further recourse if disgruntled with the final tribunal ruling.
“You have an appeal right to the Court of Appeal . . . anything that goes to the Court of Appeal takes years,” she cautioned.
Mottley then brought into the picture the matter of the welfare almost 200 workers awaiting resolution on the matter.
“Do you understand that these workers get nothing during the course of this tribunal hearing, and possible appeal . . . they do not get salary . . . severance or unemployment benefit?
“Their lives have been frozen.”
Up to this afternoon, a week after Stuart referred the matter to the tribunal, neither the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) nor the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) had heard any word on when it would meet to hear the case of the retrenched workers.
NUPW General Secretary Dennis Clarke said last Monday he hoped the matter could be wrapped up by last Friday, given that the Prime Minister had attached some urgency to putting the necessary mechanisms in place so the panel could do its work.
But he told Barbados TODAY he had nothing further to report.
“I do not know what is the latest position. I am sitting here waiting in expectation,” he said.
“They know that they can’t keep us out here forever either.” (GA/RG)