Blame the Minister!
BEC clears the air on break-up of tribunal
A week after its three representatives and five others resigned en masse from the nine-member Employment Rights Tribunal(ERT), the Barbados Employers Confederation (BEC) has broken its silence on the matter.
In a statement issued yesterday, the BEC pointed the accusing finger at the Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, while taking issue with her recent suggestion that the tribunal was headed down the “the wrong path”.
The umbrella body for employers also gave what it said was the primary reason for the December 5 resignations of its immediate past President Dr Hensley Sobers, Trustee and past President Dr Ashwell Thomas and Executive Director Colin Walcott.
It said contrary to the provisions of the Employment Rights Act (ERA), the tribunal was issued with “a direct and specific instruction by the Minister of Labour” even though “neither the Minister of Labour nor any other person has any such power to direct the tribunal.
“Any attempt to accommodate the said directive would have put the integrity of the ERT under a severe cloud as well as the personal and professional integrity of our representatives,” the BEC said.
“It was considered that their resignations were the only option available for exercise,” the statement added.
The BEC also pointed out that as far back as 2010 during tri-partite discussions on the draft Employment Rights Bill, the employers’ representatives consistently and repeatedly brought to the attention of the meetings, the need to have regulations to accompany the legislation, including the Rules of Procedure for the ERT.
However, the BEC said they were ignored.
“To suggest that the ERT should mimic the operations of some of the National Insurance tribunals, which are considered to be simple operations, is misleading as the said NIS tribunals do in fact have a fully functioning and staffed Secretariat supporting the work of the various tribunals,” the BEC further pointed out.
“The [ERT] tribunal, in accordance with Section 6 of the ERA established rules based on research and precedents to ensure consistent and appropriate application given the nature of its work.
“Cognizant of Section 48 of the ERA, the tribunal created a case management system to ensure harmony between its operations and that of the industrial relations arm of the Labour Department as well as to achieve delivery of expeditious justice. To suggest that the tribunal was ‘on the wrong path’ is unfortunate, as the role of the tribunal is very clearly set out in the Employment Rights Act, 2012-9,” it added.
Following the recent break up of the nine-member body, the BEC has now been invited by Dr Byer-Suckoo to submit the names of three nominees for consideration for appointment to the new ERT to be constituted.
The BEC said the process of identifying and nominating those representatives would commence “shortly” and it had “undertaken to provide such nominations, subject to ratification by our Council, by the close of business on Friday, January 30, 2015”.