EDITORIAL: Nothing should hinder Tribunal
The Employment Rights Tribunal is an important tribunal established by law as a critical part of the governance structure of this country. Like all the other tribunals it ought to be taken seriously and should have a respected place in the minds of all Barbadians.
Employment disputes of the workers, employers and the state are best settled when they are referred to institutions established with clear legal authority, and a chairman and board members who are experienced and judicious in their deliberations.
It could not have been the best news at this time for the National Conservation Commission (NCC) workers to hear that the tribunal adjudicating their dispute with the NCC was forced into yet another adjournment.
A letter was received by the tribunal Thursday morning from Mitch Codrington, counsel for the NCC, informing that “his condition had shown no significant improvement”, and asking to be accommodated with an adjournment.”
To put the matter in a nutshell, chairman of the tribunal, Queen’s Counsel Hal Gollop, made it clear that he is putting his foot down and that the tribunal would set dates on which this matter would proceed, and that it was up to the parties to see to it that they were represented by counsel.
We well recall the early hope that the creation of and the hearings of the tribunal would have been dealt with early; but that desirable objective was not met when that first appointed board resigned, and the present chairman and members were appointed. They set about their business in a serious way and that this matter has not made further progress at the tribunal level must be a major frustration and concern for all those involved.
It cannot be easy for anyone interested in this matter when conditions outside the control of the tribunal militate against determined efforts of the chairman and his members to get proceedings moving ahead steadily.
The tribunal was ready to continue the hearing and its chairman delivered a clear indication of how he and his colleagues must have felt. He pointed out that this was the fourth time that an adjournment had been sought and that was an unsatisfactory state of affairs. It has gone “beyond the bounds of reasonableness”.
In rejecting the dates for adjournment suggested by the absent Codrington, of December 23, 24, 29 and 30, Gollop made a very important point which is often forgotten when dealing with aspects of modern administration. He said that the dates suggested do not take into consideration that a tribunal like this functions on the efforts and responsibility of public servants.
An important key to efficient public administration, especially in dealing with quasi-judicial matters, is the experience and training and expertise of those public officers who service bodies such as tribunals established under the relevant legislation pertaining to those departments.
The Employment Rights Tribunal touches on matters that relate to the rights and relations of workers. It is recently passed legislation and public scrutiny of its proceedings is high.
If we are to maintain industrial harmony at all levels of the workforce, then this tribunal has a key role to play in resolving these issues. Its chairman and board understand this well, and clearly they also recognise the importance of those public officers serving the tribunal.
Whatever may have caused the delay so far, we strongly support the tribunal’s efforts to get on with the hearing.