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posted 29 Oct 2014, 19:40 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 29 Oct 2014, 20:11 ]
Joseph Remy
The following letter was sent to President Anthony Carmona by Joseph Remy, President of the
President Anthony Carmona
Federation Of Independent Trade Unions and NGO’s. It is dated October 22nd 2014.

Your Excellency I am acting in my capacity as President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non Governmental Organisations, FITUN, a cross functional Federation representative of leading Trade Unions, Farmers Groups and other Civil Society Organisations which seeks to advance the interests of our member units in their quest for equity and social justice.

FITUN wishes to place on record its appreciation for the work that the Industrial Court has been doing within recent times. On the eve of the celebration of the SO"` Anniversary of the Court, the Trade Union Movement is now more assured about the relevance of the Court after our initial trepidation about the original ideological construct of the Court. This led the Movement to believe that the Court was designed to quell the progressive nature of Trade Unions and corral them into a more acquiescent role of accepting justice as designed by the employer class.

Over the ensuing years and more particularly under the leadership of the current President, the Movement has developed much more respect for the Court and has seen the Court morphed into an Institution where we feel we are now seeing a level of fairness in the administration of justice for and on behalf of the working class.

Your Excellency, recent developments have caused quite a lot of consternation among practitioners of the Court, particularly among those from the Labour Movement. These developments as observed by our Federation indicate in a very lucid manner that there appears to be a concerted attempt to undermine the Independence of the Industrial Court, particularly so under the leadership of the current President of the Court. Recent appointments of Judges to serve on the Bench of the Court have generated a lot of questions in the minds of our Federation.

Industrial Court President, Deborah Thomas-Felix

There has been an established practice, consistent with the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act, of balancing the composition of the Judges Panel with suitably qualified and competently proven practitioners from the Trade Union Movement to ensure that deliberations coming out of this Jurisprudence reflect the tenets of Good and Proper Industrial Practice.

This practice also ensured that there was a level of confidence in the Court where workers originally felt that justice was not equitably dispensed because the scale tilted heavily in favour of the employer. For some time now, FITUN has not seen enough experienced and competent Trade Union Practitioners appointed to serve as Judges in the Court, this has created a perceived imbalance that is of serious concern to us.

Your Excellency, for the avoidance of doubt, we wish to also make it pellucidly clear that FITUN holds no personal brief for the current President. Our concerns however are grounded by the recent advances that we have noticed in the performance of the Court under the astute leadership of the current President. We have noticed and seen for the first time a clear vision for the Court, one that is grounded in the principle that Justice delayed is Justice denied.

The vision is also grounded in the principle of enhancing the quality of judgments coming out of the Court and creating the environment for the deepening of a more meaningful relationship between the powers and authority of Employers to advance their business and the desire to ensure that the cause of workers is respected and advanced, all in the best interest of the social and economic development of Trinidad and Tobago.

Your Excellency, the Federation has taken note of the following undeniable facts:

  • The current President is the first Female President appointed to serve at the Court.

  • She has cleared the very vexatious backlog that bedeviled the Court over the years and created mistrust in the minds of workers.

  • She has began the process of Judicial Education Training for all Judges of the Court to enhance the quality of judgments coming out of the Court.

  • She has embarked on a process of digitization of all material at the Library which has been ongoing since 2012.

  • She has introduced a shareholders symposium which is quite useful in serving as a teaching exercise for all shareholders and has proven to be very beneficial to all.

  • She has increased and improved on the delivery of training and developmental activities for staff at the Court.

  • She has introduced a shareholders kiosk, electronic signage and video conferencing at the Court.

  • She has introduced a statistical bulletin at the Court.

  • She has been the first President to have published Annual Reports of the performance and operations of the Court since 2012 which has been laid in Parliament.

  • The entire experience of seeking justice at the Court has been enhanced and the operations have been noticeably improved.

  • Our observation has revealed that no President has left the Court since its inception before the age of sixty-nine (69) years. The predecessor to this President left at the age of seventy-three (73).

Your Excellency, FITUN has taken note of the provisions of Section 4 (3) of the Industrial Relations Act which states:

The Court shall consist of the following members:
“(a) a President of the Court who shall be -

(1) a Judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature designated, with his consent, by the President of Trinidad and Tobago after consultation with the Chief Justice.

(b) a Vice-President of the Court, who shall be a barrister or solicitor of not less than ten years standing, appointed by the President of Trinidad and Tobago;

(c) Such number or other members as may be determined by the President of Trinidad and Tobago from time to time who shall be appointed by the President of Trinidad and Tobago from among persons experienced in industrial relations or qualified as economists or accountants, or who are barristers or solicitors of not less than five years standing.”

In the circumstances your Excellency, FITUN wishes to state that the confidence of members of the working class rests in the qualitative appointments to serve on the bench of this superior court of record. In particular, the Trade Union Movement takes its confidence in appointments that sends the signal that the scales of justice are balanced to ensure that equity prevails.

 We are therefore expressing our deep concerns about recent appointments that are creating the perception of being politically influenced as this will certainly erode the perceived independence of the Court and create an atmosphere and environment of industrial instability.

We certainly believe that the Court should be allowed to realise its innate potential consistent with its current vision and leadership thrust and should not be allowed to be entangled in perceived political mischief and manipulation that seems to have engulfed some other Independent Institutions in our country.

Your Excellency, FITUN looks forward to you continuing to exercise your powers and judgment as envisaged in the provisions of Constitution of the country and the Industrial Relations Act, to ensure that all these negative perceptions and unease that currently exists among practitioners of the Industrial Court are expunged from their minds, and, the confidence that was so present in the Court under the leadership of the current President, would permeate the Industrial Relations Climate all in the interest of the social and economic development of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

We at FITUN look forward to your appointments to the Court with the requisite diligence and transparency, mindful of the strides that the Court has made in recent times.