The Government says it is committed to resolving the administrative issues that are affecting the smooth functioning of the Employment Rights Tribunal (ERT) and to eliminating the backlog of cases which has been a source of frustration for some members of the public.
Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, Senator Dr Esther Byer Suckoo gave this undertaking recently during an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service.
The Minister said now that the Tribunal had been functioning for some time, they had been able to identify some weaknesses.
She disclosed that meetings were held internally and with the unions and employers to identify some of the challenges and their possible solutions. Senator Byer Suckoo also alluded to further meetings to be held shortly.
“In the next week or two I will be meeting with the members of the Tribunal to put some new structures in place. I do admit that there have been challenges and there is a back log. We have been working with limited resources but I think that we have now been able to identify how we can best use the resources that we have. When I meet with the chairpersons in the next two weeks, I believe we will be able to put those new mechanisms in place,” she said.
The Labour Minister also hinted at a minor amendment to the legislation as a means of reducing some of the burden on the ERT – a measure which already has the buy-in from the employers and the unions. She also disclosed that consultations were held on a number of suggested amendments for better administration of the Act.
Pointing out that consultations were held on the Employment Rights Act for close to two decades before its passage, she commended those involved in the discussions that “came with an understanding about what we were trying to do and the spirit behind the Act”.
“Most of what is in the Act was already in practice and some already in our Protocol of the Social Partnership. The Employment Rights Act was in draft for close to two decades with intense consultations. The parties understood and agreed to what the Act was attempting to do. However, since the enactment in 2012, employers, workers and attorneys are interpreting this legislation in a way that we had not before envisaged,” the Minister said.
“We have seen some very interesting interpretations of the legislation and it has made for scenarios that none of the parties imagined in the 20 years that it was being drafted. This is not unique to this Act however, [but] now we are looking at specific areas in the legislation to see how we can address the scenarios that are now arising out of the Employment Rights Act.”
The Labour Minister pointed out that the Act was not meant to place any undue hardship on employers but was meant to protect workers and to ensure that there are fair structures in place for employers to deal with challenges they have with their workers.