The body established to settle industrial relations disputes has been described as “a pappy show” and “ineffective” by the island’s largest public sector trade union.
And the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) might consider options other than the Employment Rights Tribunal for settlement of matters involving its members.
An upset NUPW President Akkani McDowall told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that he would put the issue before the union’s National Council as a matter of urgency since the Tribunal was not working effectively for its members.
McDowall was responding to a story in Barbados TODAY on Wednesday that retrenched workers of the National Conservation Commission (NCC) would have to wait for a yet to be determined period for a decision in their dispute brought before the Tribunal.
In that story, Chairman of the Tribunal Hal Gollop, QC, revealed that a ruling in the case brought by the NUPW had been put on hold pending a similar case which the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) has before it, but still had not started.
Gollop said then, that it made sense to deliver a single verdict, much to McDowall’s annoyance.
“It is ridiculous that we have to wait for yet another period before we get a judgment in the NCC case. I think it is ridiculous. These people would have been suffering long enough already. They had to wait for two years before the case was heard; and then the case took a little while itself; and now we have to wait again for a judgment. I don’t see why we have to wait so long to get a judgment,” he stated.
The NUPW President said he did not understand the connection between the BWU case and the one brought by his union, arguing it was impossible to determine that both cases were similar until the facts of the BWU case were heard.
“I have a member who was retrenched; she says to me that she has six children, she can’t pay her mortgage, she has light bill to pay, she has other utility bills to pay and it is really difficult on her. To ask that lady to wait an additional period for a judgment is ridiculous . . . it is bordering on insensitive. I just don’t understand it,” McDowall insisted.
“What I am going to do is bring this matter up to council for a decision, because we need to do something about it. I don’t even know if the Tribunal in its current state is as effective as we would like it to be . . . because if you realize the tribunal would have had four years of existence, heard three cases and made a decision on one. To me that is not an effective thing and we are paying members of the tribunal every day,” the NUPW head said.
Pressed to specify the union’s options, McDowall hreplied: “I don’t want to . . . I would discuss it with Council and Council will see what we decide. Council is to guide me on what we would do next. I don’t want to say that I am going to do X or I am going to do Y; but I am going to discuss this matter with Council as a matter of urgency.”
The Chairman of the tribunal had also said on Wednesday that the ruling was being further delayed by timetable challenges on the part of the attorney for the state-run NCC.
In fact, Gollop suggested that these hearings would be better off without the involvement of lawyers.
“The institution of the tribunal was not intended to make litigation more difficult, it was intended to make it much easier and there is no need for people to have lawyers. But if people bring lawyers you have to treat them as lawyers,” the senior attorney stated at the time.
While declining to comment on whether lawyers should be involved in the Tribunal’s proceeding, McDowall conceded that the attorneys held up the process and were expensive as well. (EJ)