Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo is assuring there is no conflict of interest at the helm of the Employment Rights Tribunal and thus no need for any new set of regulations to start hearing the case of retrenched National Conservation Commission (NCC) workers.
Addressing concerns that 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 impasse, the minister suggested that did not have to be a stumbling block.
Although not saying that Codrington should recuse herself from the upcoming proceedings, Byer-Suckoo told Barbados TODAY that there were two other attorneys on the panel who could act as chairperson.
She added: “I cannot direct who should or should not chair a meeting. That is not the mandate of the Government.”
“Concerns have been raised about former Chief Labour Officer Mitchell Codrington being retained as the industrial relations consultant for the NCC, but my understanding is that he was not a part of the selection process for workers who were earmarked for retrenchment. He was engaged to be part of the negotiation team,” the minister added.
While the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) president Walter Maloney has declined to comment on the matter and the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) assistant general secretary Dwaine Paul said he does not envision any conflict of interest arising, general secretary of the Unity Workers Union, Caswell Franklyn, insists Codrington should recuse herself “because her legal partner is a consultant for the NCC”.
Byer-Suckoo also responded to charges by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley that the act calls for regulations to be put in place before the tribunal can carry out its functions.
“The Employment Rights Act states at Section 6 (3) that the tribunal shall regulate its own procedure and may make rules for that purpose,” the minister said.
The BWU and NUPW are waiting for a date for the tribunal to hear their case. They are contesting the NCC’s retrenchment list, insisting that the last in, first out principle was not used.
Byer-Suckoo said she could give no indication when proceedings would begin.
“I cannot give any time frame for the hearing. It is not in the purview of the Government to actually make dictates on the tribunal,” he said.
“However, in referring the matter to the tribunal, it would have been suggested that this case should be considered as an urgent matter. The hearing takes place in much the same way that the court can be asked to treat a matter as urgent with a certificate of urgency. The Government has not sought such a certificate.”