A local trade union leader is demanding the resignation of Chief Labour Officer Victor Felix over an industrial relations dispute involving a Cabinet minister.
Head of the Unity Trade Union Senator Caswell Franklyn is accusing Felix of failing to refer to the Employment Rights Tribunal, a complaint of unfair dismissal he made to him since last year on behalf of a client.
Franklyn, an Opposition Senator, told Barbados TODAY this morning that he had filed the complaint sometime in June last year claiming that his client, who had been employed by the Minister when he was in private practice, was fired without receiving pay owed to her, after her former boss was sworn into office following the May 24 General Elections.
“Felix has failed to do his job. He should go,” insisted the outspoken legislator.
He disclosed that he will also be making a complaint to Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Colin Jordan, regarding the conduct of the Chief Labour Officer.
Not only that, Franklyn told Barbados TODAY his client was planning to take Felix to court, but that the only thing standing in her way was a lack of funds to hire a lawyer.
However, in his defence, the Chief Labour Officer was adamant he had done nothing wrong in the handling of the complaint by Franklyn and his client.
“I am doing the work of the Labour Department in the best manner that I know how, and that I will continue to do,” Felix told Barbados TODAY this morning.
Pressed to specify if he had refused to refer the matter to the Employment Rights Tribunal, he replied:”Needless to say, there are matters before the Chief Labour Officer; and we continue to deal with them, using the process we have been using within the labour department to deal with matters.”
Asked to state categorically whether or not he had refused to refer the complaint, Felix stuck to his story.
“I would say that we are following the process.”
When reminded that the case was filed since last year, his response was: “Well, we are following the process. We have a procedure for dealing with issues and we follow that procedure,” Felix emphasized.
But Senator Franklyn is not buying Felix’s argument and has told Barbados TODAY that the same procedure to which the Chief Labour Officer refers has been contravened by him.
He referred to Section 44 (1) of the Employment Rights Act which states: “Where the Chief Labour Officer is unable, within 42 days of the making of a complaint, except in extenuating circumstances, to effect settlement of the complaint under Section 43, he shall make a report to that effect to the Tribunal.”
Barbados TODAY checked the Act and also found that Section 42 (1) said that where an employee believes there is a dispute concerning infringement of any right conferred on him by the Act, he may present a complaint to the Chief Labour Officer.
And according to Section 43 (1) where the Chief Labour Officer receives a complaint under Section 42, he shall as soon as practicable enquire into the matter and process the complaint for conciliation and referral to the Tribunal.
Senator Franklyn noted that nearly a year has gone since the complaint was filed and “there are no extenuating circumstances. The Minister is not in hospital or anything like that…and still the matter has not been referred to the Tribunal. I have written him (the Minister) and he has refused to respond. There can’t be one law for a minister and another for ordinary citizens.”
When contacted, neither the Cabinet Minister implicated in the dispute nor Minister Jordan was available for comment. [email protected]