Tribunals in Barbados have as huge a backlog of cases as the state’s formal court system, a trade union leader has argued. And General Secretary of the Unity Workers Union (UWU) Caswell Franklyn is suggesting that the various tribunals be merged into a single administrative appeals panel in order to eliminate the bottleneck.
Franklyn told Barbados TODAY some workers had cases lodged before the Employment Rights Tribunal as far back as 2014 and were yet to have their grievances heard.
“The whole system is a mess. They are not taking people seriously. They put the structure in place not intending to do anything seriously about the matters. The Government gave the workers hope, but then dashed that hope because they cannot get their cases heard,” he said.
Besides the Employment Rights Tribunal, there are the Severance Payments Tribunal, the National Insurance Appeals Tribunal, and the Financial Services Commission Appeals Tribunals.
Franklyn said the law was already in place to establish a single administrative appeals tribunal, and needed to be proclaimed to become effective.
The senior trade unionist pointed out that each panel of adjudicators for each tribunal must be chaired by an attorney-at-law, but in most cases, the attorneys have busy schedules.
“The people who are running the tribunal do not have the time, and it is unfortunate, because these tribunals were set up to take pressure off the law courts because they are simple matters. They do not need a judge to deal with these matters,” he argued, also contending that, at this stage, the wheels of justice turned just as slowly in these tribunals as they do in the court system.
Franklyn charged that some companies were holding those long delays over workers’ heads to force them to take less than adequate settlements.
“We have company lawyers telling dismissed workers, ‘look, the tribunal is going to take three years so if you do not take the money we are offering, you are going to suffer, so take it’. So workers are taking a lot less compensation than they are entitled to by the law,” he argued.
Franklyn made reference to a worker who was entitled to $230,000 in compensation, but was offered $90,000 by the company’s attorney.
The trade unionist said had the case gone to the tribunal, the employee would have had to wait forever for a victory.
“The worker just refinanced his mortgage and he has not got any money. He can’t survive. He is going to take the money today or he will go to the tribunal and wait three years. He cannot survive. That is how bad it is,” the UWU boss said.
Franklyn contended that successive Governments had established tribunals simply to give their friends “a little pick”.