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CONTEMPT FOR THE COURT by Bryan St. Louis

posted 7 Dec 2016, 10:49 by Gerry Kangalee
Image result for trinidad bryan st louisOnce again the Business Sector has launched a vicious and unwarranted attack on the Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago.

For the record it must be understood that the Industrial Court is a Superior Court of record, which gives it a status equivalent to that of the High Court of Justice. Additionally, it is also a specialized Court with its own peculiar jurisdiction and is also responsible for the dispensation of Social Justice.

In the Business Section of the Trinidad Express dated December 1, 2016 and the Newsday dated December 2, 2016, Businessman Frank Mouttet and Attorney at Law Dereck Ali viciously and without any justification berated the Industrial Court for encouraging decreased levels of productivity and making it difficult for employers to terminate employees.

In fact Mouttet went on to state that the Court has been harsh and oppressive towards employers whilst favouring workers and their representative Unions. He is also quoted as saying that he had employees “lined up to be fired” for various reasons but was worried that he might be found to have dismissed the workers wrongfully.

It is also reported that there was a lot of laughter by the Business Class, when Mouttet sarcastically indicated that the judges of the court must have been brought up in Siberia under Joseph Stalin and that there is no ‘tripartite’ there is ‘onepartite’

Attorney at Law, Derek Ali on the other hand is quoted as expressing the view that Trade Unions were “big Business” and part of the business is coming to the Industrial Court to receive large rewards and damages on behalf of workers. He also added that it costs Unions nothing to come to Court whilst it costs employers substantially in legal fees.

You would recall at an Industrial Court symposium held on May 14th 2016,the President of the Industrial Court, Her Honour Mrs. Deborah Thomas-Felix indicated that in many disputes before the Court it was revealed that the conduct of Industrial Relations practices at the work place was far from being fair and just.

In fact, it was also revealed that in almost every matter brought before the Court the conduct of the employer was described as being harsh and oppressive. The President of the Court also admonished the said employers when she said, “You fire sixty-eight (68) workers without the blink of an eye, you blame the Court; you close up shop without giving a thought to what is due to workers and the rights of workers, you blame the Court; you curse workers in the most vile and despicable manner, and you blame the Court. You place your workers in situations where their health and safety are compromised, you blame the Court; you fire union officials with a view of dismantling the union, and, of course, you blame the Court.”

By this open and flagrant attack on the Industrial Court, the Employer Class has lifted its veil and indicated its intention to challenge the right of workers and their representatives to seek Social Justice at the institution which was created by the state to uphold the principles and practices of good and proper Industrial Relations and in the process create the environment for Industrial Peace and Economic and Social Development.

Practitioners at the Industrial Court would however indicate that whilst the Business Class is attacking the Court, they do not cooperate with the administrative processes at the said Court, all in an attempt to delay and deny justice to workers. Additionally, they are using their deep pockets to hire highly paid Attorneys inclusive of Senior Counsels to represent their interests, which forces Unions in some cases to struggle financially to match that type of representation in the best interest of workers.

This latest tirade has once again revealed how the Business Class has united, whilst the Trade Union Movement battles with Trade Union Unity, because of ideological positions.

Additionally, if those views being expressed are fully supported by the Business Class then what are the expectations of tripartite initiatives by the Government to address issues of productivity and amendments to our outdated labour legislations in particular the Industrial Relations Act which gave life to the Industrial Court and the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board.

The Business Class has fired another shot at the Working Class but the Trade Union Movement appears to be in a slumber and there is a deafening silence by the Minister of Labour and other Government Officials.

These attacks on an institution that was created to dispense social justice to workers who were treated unfairly and in circumstances where good and proper Industrial Relations practices were not adhered to, cannot go unchecked; as the Business Class continues to make these statements unrepentantly, despite data which do not support the allegations being made. Options should therefore be explored by the Industrial Court to impose sanctions or penalties on those who choose to denigrate and unfairly criticise the jurisprudence of the Industrial Court.

It is also time that our Labour Leaders put their egos in their back pockets and facilitate the environment for real and genuine Trade Union Unity otherwise the Business Class by their consistent attacks and statements, if left unchecked, would succeed in their lobby for control of an institution that was designed to promote flexibility and open dialogue rather than protect entrenched interests.

In the meantime, unless there is real and genuine Trade Union Unity and meaningful engagement at the Tripartite level the antagonism between the Capitalist Class and the Working Class would continue to exist to the detriment of Social Justice and Industrial Peace in Trinidad and Tobago.
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