A day after Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced he was referring the National Conservation Commission (NCC) dispute to the Employment Rights Tribunal for correction of some “procedural missteps”, concern has been raised that there is yet another misstep –– this time the possible conflict of interest at the helm of the tribunal.
Barbados TODAY has learnt that the chairperson of the nine-member body, attorney-at-law Tracea Codrington, is the daughter and legal partner of Mitchell Codrington, who is the industrial relations consultant to the NCC in the current impasse with the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW). This fact is already fuelling discussion over whether or not she should be made to recuse herself from the upcoming proceedings.
When contacted, president of the NUPW, Walter Maloney, declined comment on the matter.
However, the BWU’s deputy director of industrial relations Dwaine Paul said: “I am aware that the chairman of the Employment Rights Tribunal is the daughter of the industrial relations consultant for the NCC, but I do not envision any conflict of interest arising.
“Both of these individuals are professionals and would adhere to the highest professional standards. I am sure they will seek at all times to avoid any conflict of interest arising in this situation,” he said.
General secretary of the Unity Workers Union, Caswell Franklyn, was much more perturbed about the development.
He told Barbados TODAY: “The deputy chairman of the tribunal should be able to handle the dispute. The chairman should not touch it. She should recuse herself because her legal partner is a consultant for the NCC.”
Arguing that the other two unions were handling the impasse with kid gloves, the outspoken trade unionist charged that “the trade unions are protecting the ruling Democratic Labour Party”.
“You see this nonsense with the march; the unions did not want to march because the DLP is afraid of what could have happened. If the NCC workers march, a lot of people would have joined. Opposition Leader Mia Mottley and supporters of hers would have joined in and a lot of people who do not belong to unions would also have joined. It would have been a national march,” he said.
In a brief interview with Barbados TODAY, Codrington did not weigh in on the controversy now swirling around the tribunal, but she pointed out that the three-member panel investigating an industrial dispute must be headed by an attorney-at-law and must include a representative of the workers, as well as an employers representative.
Labour officials also explained that the nine-member panel was drawn from the business sector, Government and the trade union movement, but with three members constituting a panel to hear disputes.
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.
The hearings, which are expected to be convened at the offices of the Labour Department at Warrens, St Michael, will be opened to the general public and interested parties.
In referring the matter to the Employment Rights Tribunal following a meeting at Government Headquarters yesterday, the Prime Minister said: “Based on the evidence provided during the meeting, there appears to be some “procedural missteps” which must be fixed, but the task of correcting them should not fall on the NCC management.”