Monday 26 August, 2019

Government setting new standard for Employment Rights Tribunal

Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan.

Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan.

The additional responsibility placed on the Employment Rights Tribunal dictates that a high standard is set for those given authority in that institution.

That is the belief of Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan.

Speaking as the Lower House debated the Employment Rights (Amendment) Bill 2019, he explained the rationale behind the revision: 

"The Bill essentially speaks to the taking of an oath or affirmation, by members of the Employment Rights Tribunal before they commence their work. 

"So that as a result of the enactment of this piece of legislation, this Employment Rights (Amendment) Bill 2019, the only change in the Employment Rights Act, is that members of the Tribunal who have already been chosen will be required to take an oath of office or an affirmation before the Governor General prior to the commencement of their duties."

He continued by asserting that this change is in line with the Barbados Labour Party Government mandate to ensure justice: 

"Why do we need this amendment to the Employment Rights Act? I want to submit to you that the answer really lies in what I call the ideological bowels of the Barbados Labour Party. 

"It speaks to justice for people, it speaks to workers being properly treated. It speaks to a way of governing, a way of managing that seeks to all time to ensure that workers are fairly treated and that justice is actually done - so that all safeguards are put to ensure that justice is delivered."  

Minister Jordan went on to explain his point, by highlighting the increased powers given to the Tribunal:

"The powers of the Tribunal has been over time, significantly increased and so with the proclamation of the Employment Sexual Harassment Prevention Act in 2017, complaints under that Act are also to be adjudicated under the Employment Rights Tribunal. The new Holidays with Pay Act also went significantly further and the Holidays with Pay Act at its second schedule has amended the Employment Rights Act in a significant manner...

"A clause which speaks to enforcing penalties, including fines and confinement, so that a person who contravenes a section of this Act, is guilty of an offence, the second schedule says and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $20 000 or imprisonment for six months, or to both."

Adding that "the Employment Rights Tribunal is charged with significant responsibilities," Jordan stressed that these powers have continued to increase remarkably:

"I think it is very clear to recognise that the makers of law, the legislator, has over time seen the Employment Rights Tribunal as almost an industrial court -a quasi-court and have given to that Tribunal varying powers to determine cases, and now also to impose fines or confinement to those guilty of certain offences."

He believes that this responsibility dictates that those with such authority should have a corresponding sense of duty:

"Because of the quasi-judicial nature of the Tribunal, because of the quantum of regress and now fines and confinement that this Tribunal can impose on persons who are guilty of offences or who have not adhered to the Employment Rights Act, or the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act, or the Holidays with Pay Act, because of the weighty responsibility of fining, confining, giving regress in these cases, we believe that members of the Tribunal should subject themselves to an oath of office or the taking of an affirmation of office before the Governor General prior to discharging of their responsibilities. 

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