After waiting for more than eight months, hundreds of retrenched National Conservation Commission (NCC) workers will finally have their day before the Employment Rights Tribunal next month.
Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer made the revelation this morning, soon after meeting with the new tribunal chairman Hal Gollop, QC and taking him on a tour of the facilities at her ministry where the reconstituted body will function.
Gollop told reporters that of the more than 70 cases to be heard by the tribunal, the NCC matter would be a priority.
“The workers at the NCC may rest assured that the tribunal would be working and exerting every possible effort to bring justice to their cause. Certainly their cases are matters for priority and given the industrial climate, I have no doubt that the minister will insist that the interests of those NCC workers be attended immediately. So we look forward to getting the tribunal started,” added the Queen’s Counsel.
Byer said three people had already been appointed but did not disclose the identities of the others.
“We are waiting on the nominees from labour. We have one so far, but we are waiting on the other nominees from labour and we are awaiting the employers’ nominees . . . and they’ve given their assurances that they would be in by the end of the month so that, at the beginning of February, we are ready to go,” she said.
Byer said that, in the interim, the chairman and his deputy would be brought up to speed so they could lead the process.
She also disclosed that three additional people would be hired as independent contractors to assist the tribunal in its work – a registrar, a secretary/transcriptionist and a clerk typist.
They would be appointed for six months to assist with the backlog of cases dating back to just over a year. At the end of that period, the tribunal would draw from a pool of workers.
The minister also told reporters that three panels would run concurrently to push forward cases.
Her update on the process of getting justice for the former NCC workers came as the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) led a demonstration in Bridgetown protesting the delay in the tribunal’s hearing of the retrenched employees’ case.
Explaining the importance of the tribunal, Byer said she had explored, with the NUPW and the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), options to address the situation of the NCC workers, but it was agreed that the best way forward was engaging the body.
“So we are moving apace to ensure that, from the beginning of February, everybody is good to go,” she assured.
Meantime, Gollop gave the assurance that the tribunal process would not be complicated to ensure that the ordinary person could get justice.
He said he hoped to meet shortly with the members of the tribunal who have already been appointed to plan the way forward.
Once the remaining members were appointed, he said, he would also meet with them.
“It has to be an effort of all of us. There are various interests represented and those interests have to be brought under a common umbrella to achieve that justice that we speak of,” the Queen’s Counsel said.