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Tuesday 12 December 2017
News

Thomas-Felix challenges pro-worker allegations

PRESIDENT of the Industrial Court Deborah Thomas-Felix has defended the partiality of the Court against claims that it favours workers and said employers lose cases because of “harsh and oppressive” conduct.

She stressed that people may disagree with some rulings of the Court “but to seek to impugn its impartiality or diminish the importance of its role and function, is simply not the way to go.” She was speaking yesterday at the Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago “Meet With the Court Symposium 4” held at the Hyatt Regency, Portof- Spain. She referred to a discussion by the business sector at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business a few weeks ago in which attendees reportedly portrayed the Court as an obstacle to their ability to run their businesses profitably and maintain the necessary discipline.

The employers, she said, allegedly claimed “that the judgements coming out of the court favoured the worker at the expense of the employer and the survival of the business as a going and profitable enterprise”.

Thomas-Felix reported that for the period 2014-2015 there were 2,744 matters and of these 747 were disposed by the adversarial process. Out of these 230 judgements, or 30 per cent, were in favour of employers.

She also reported that of the withdrawn matters 24.9 per cent were withdrawn by unions and therefore the employer won.

“If you do the math it will answer the question whether the judgements of the Court favour workers,” she added.

She said in several of the cases in open court “the conduct by the employer is so egregious that it goes against the grain of what is acceptable, fair and just and what is good industrial relations principles and practices in the workplace”.

“These are the cases you will read about in the newspapers, the cases where the employer loses, the cases where the Court has determined that the conduct of the employer is harsh and oppressive and not in accordance with the principles and practices of good industrial relations,” she added.

She said there are several companies that work harmoniously with unions to resolve issues and have very few matters, if any, filed at the Court.

She recalled that 51 years ago when the Court was established critics labelled it as a Court for the employer and the elite class but this changed to the being labelled a Court for workers.

She said the criticisms “has been repeatedly articulated in the industrial relations echo chambers in this country and in some instances by persons who have had no interaction with the Court or proper insight into the working of the Court”.

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