Steps are being put in place to ensure that the over 300 complaints remaining to be heard by the Employment Rights Tribunal are done in a timely manner.
That is the word from Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations Colin Jordan, who today revealed they would be pursuing the option of holding multiple tribunals at the same time.
Speaking during the Employment Rights Amendment Bill 2019 during the first sitting of Parliament for the year, Jordan revealed that while 346 complaints had been received by the Employment Rights Tribunal Secretariat, only 14 cases had been heard thus far.
“Of those 14, nine decisions have been handed down, five decisions are pending, ten of the cases which the complainants brought were settled outside of the Employment Rights Tribunal and there are now 327 cases outstanding.
“Even as minister responsible for labour and therefore responsible for this situation at this time, I would want to admit that this is an untenable situation. This is one that cannot be allowed to continue,” Jordan said.
“So one of the reasons for our haste in getting this amendment to this Honourable chamber very early in this calendar year is so we can get our tribunals going because this situation is not one that can be allowed to continue. We must work assiduously to get this backlog reduced and eliminated.”
“There has been another challenge and this one relates to the availability of secretarial logistical support to allow for the meeting of more than one tribunal at a time. That has been a challenge because they have been one or two times in the past where there was a desire to have more than one tribunal sit at any given time.
“I am pleased to indicate that even though Estimates have not yet been laid and even though we do not yet know what our Budgets for 2019/2020 will be, as a ministry we have included in our Estimates for 2019/2020 provisions that will allow for additional secretarial support, additional equipment that will allow two and possibly three tribunals to sit simultaneously,” Jordan said.
“There are notes to be taken, there are recordings to be made and so there are requirements not just for people, but for additional equipment as well and provision has been made and we have been pushing hard to have those additional people and resources put in place to allow for the sitting and hearing of multiple tribunals simultaneously.”
Jordan also pointed to the need for those persons sitting on the tribunals to take an oath of office before adjudicating matters.
He admitted that while there had been no bias in selecting those persons to serve the “weighted responsibility” required a more serious approach.
“We believe members of the tribunal should subject themselves to an oath of office or to the taking of an affirmation of office before the Governor General prior to discharging their responsibilities…and before adjudicating in matters relating to the areas of labour legislation that they are charged with adjudicating.
“We believe that their function is serious enough and impactful enough that it needs that level of seriousness,” the Minister Jordan said.
He also said they would be looking to increase the stipends given to those persons who work on the tribunals.