Tribunal resumes work in Sept.
Byer-Suckoo says arrangements have fallen short of requirements
With over 70 cases currently scheduled to go before it for hearing, including the much publicized National Conservation Commission (NCC) dispute, the Employment Rights Tribunal is set to resume its work in September.
Word of this from Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, who reported in an interview with Barbados TODAY, that a number of tribunal members were curently away on annual vacation leave.
Byer-Suckoo also noted that, as with anything new, there were some initial “teething problems” , pointing out that many of the persons who now serve on the Employment Rights Tribunal would have never served on such a body before.
She also acknowledged that the arrangements made prior to proclaiming the legislation and putting the persons in place, had fallen short of what was actually required.
“For all the best made plans, you have projections, but it is only when you actually start to get up and running, you realise, ‘No, you need something else here, something else there’. So we are actually doing some adding to what we had as the resources that we had allocated for them, so that they could go ahead,” the Minister of Labour explained.
For example, she said, it was anticipated that staff from within the Labour Department would be able to service the tribunal, but now that the panel had actually started to receive letters and complaints, “the demands are such that we realize that there is nobody in the department that can carry that responsibility [along with] their other duties.
“We had to add somebody else for that. In fact, we are actually looking at three persons to be totally dedicated to the tribunal,” she said.
Noting that to date there were over 70 cases pending before the tribunal, she said, “[this] could not have been foreseen. We did not anticipate that we would have had such a demand.
“There is a process for each. It is not that you come to the tribunal and your matter is heard right away. You have forms that you would have to fill out and then they would require you to give certain documents, and once that is done, then they would decide if it is a matter that is rightly before them.”
One of the most contentious matters currently before the Employment Rights Tribunal is the recent dismissal of some 200 workers at the NCC, which was referred to the tribunal by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart after talks broke down between the management at the statutory corporation and the workers’ bargaining agents earlier this year.
The tribunal, which was established last year under the Employment Rights Act, has been given wide-ranging powers, subject to appeal to the Court of Appeal on questions of law, to determine complaints. These include, power to award compensation and to order reinstatement or re-engagement of an unfairly dismissed employee.
The nine-member tribunal, which is drawn from the business sector, Government and the trade union movement is headed by attorney-at-law Tracea Codrington.
Besides Codrington, the other members of the tribunal are deputy chairman and attorney-at-law Nicole Roachford and Ryan Omari Drakes, representing the Government; Elsworth Young, John Blackman and Beverley Beckles representing the workers; and Dr Atwell Thomas, Dr Hensley Sobers and Colin Walcott representing the employers.