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Saturday 16 December 2017

Industrial Court judges need secure tenure

President of the Industrial Court Deborah Thomas-Felix has said its judges did not enjoy security of tenure and had to endure “nail biting” moments, wondering if they will have a job at the expiration of the term of their contract.

“This is simply untenable,” Thomas-Felix said during a special sitting of the Industrial Court, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

She said the Industrial Relations Advisory Committee had recommended strengthening the role of the Industrial Court and the tenure of its judges.

“This has been the recommendation of many over the decades, however, we are yet to see this translate into reality. It is my ardent hope that in 2015, when the Industrial Court will celebrate its 50th anniversary as an institution, the members of this court of record will be accorded the security of tenure they deserve,” she said.

Thomas-Felix said she endorsed Chief Justice Ivor Archie’s call for an independent budget for the Judiciary because of the budgetary constraints the court faced every year.

She noted that although the court sought $5 million to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year to host a number of events, projects and activities, they only received $1.9 million.

“Obviously this will severely affect the court’s ability to execute a number of these planned projects and activities,” she said.

Thomas-Felix said when she assumed office in December 2011, there were 68 outstanding judgments that dated as far back as 2008. She said she was happy to report that there were no reserved judgments at the Industrial Court for any period prior to 2014. She said only judgments for matters which had been determined in 2014 were yet to be delivered.

The president said there was the perception by employers that the judgments were skewed to favour trade unions, while trade unions argued to the contrary and said the judgments were in favour of employers.

Thomas-Felix said a large part of the work of the court went unnoticed because several disputes were resolved and withdrawn by parties in chambers.

She said apart from bilateral agreements, disputes were withdrawn when the court advised parties that no useful purpose could be served in pursuing such action, adding most of the matters were withdrawn by trade unions.

She said last year, 271 matters were withdrawn, while for 2014, 251 were withdrawn.

Thomas-Felix said conciliation was an integral part of the court’s offering to stakeholders and provided an amicable solution to disputes. She said more and more parties were requesting conciliation services from the court with 196 requests currently pending.

Thomas -Felix said there was need to strengthen and formalise the court’s services and a conciliation unit was worth considering.


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