Fri | Mar 22, 2019

Gov’t, unions, private sector on collision course over IDT rulings

Published:Saturday | February 16, 2019 | 12:26 AM
Danny Roberts

At least one trade unionist has pushed back strongly against the wave of growing complaints from employers that the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) is biased against them when they have disputes with employees.

In a joint press release yesterday, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, and the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association expressed concerns over the high costs associated with bringing cases before the IDT, labelling as unfair some of the rulings handed down. They are also calling on Labour Minister Shahine Robinson to move swiftly to revise the Labour Relations Code of 1976, adding that current laws inhibit the ability to efficiently operate businesses and to attract investment, which can negatively impact productivity and growth.

“In an environment where micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) make up 97 per cent of our classified taxpaying businesses, our labour laws and the code are complex and difficult to navigate,” the groups contend.

They pointed to the human resource management issues rocking the state-owned oil refinery Petrojam as an example of the hurdles private-sector companies face when they attempt to carry out disciplinary actions against employees.

But Danny Roberts, head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Institute, told The Gleaner yesterday that he was puzzled at the complaint.

“I am yet to see any evidence which shows me that many of the cases which have been ruled in favour of the employee when it comes to unjustifiable dismissal, that those rulings have not been signed by the employers’ representatives. I am not aware of it.

“But what I am aware of is that the vast majority of cases of unfair dismissal upheld by the tribunal have the full endorsement of the employers’ representative,” Roberts said.

Failed to follow due process

According to the long-time trade unionist, employers often run into problems when they do not follow the regulations when seeking to carry out disciplinary actions, and as a result, they sometimes lose, even when employees were in the wrong.

“If employers, therefore, go through due process and terminate, once due process has been completed, the tribunal cannot overturn the decision. Where the IDT has overturned every decision made by the employers, it is when the employer has failed to follow due process. It’s called vigilante justice,” Roberts said.

Roberts admitted, though, that many policies and legislation governing labour are outdated.

“The Employee Redundancy and Termination Payment Act needs to be reviewed, the Labour Relations and Industrial Act needs to be reviewed, the Labour Relations Code needs to be reviewed, the Maternity Law needs to be reviewed. All of these acts need to be reviewed to ensure that they maintain some level of currency, equity, and fairness.”