The National Tripartite Council (NTC) is fighting to bring reforms to the Industrial Tribunal, which, in its current iteration, can not enforce its own rulings, has no power to compel witnesses to testify, and can not award costs, the council’s Chairman Robert Farquharson said yesterday.
Farquharson, speaking on the issue to Guardian Radio’s Morning Blend Business host Dwight Strachan, said the tribunal in its current form is “causing much hardships in industrial relations in The Bahamas” due primarily to those aforementioned deficiencies.
The NTC has put out for public consultation its Legal Advisory Committee Report, which lays out its recommendations on what reforms should be made to the Industrial Tribunal in order to make it more effective and efficient.
“We believe in the National Tripartite Council and that the tribunal should go back to its original intent, to resolve disputes efficiently, effectively and on a timely basis,” Farquharson said.
“Right now, the tribunal can not enforce its own judgement. The tribunal can not enforce its own ruling. The employer is not compelled to pay that money. That employee has to go to the Supreme Court, hire a lawyer today and have the Supreme Court enforce that ruling. Another weakness of the tribunal is that as of today, it can not compel witnesses to come. Despite all of the adjustments that have to be made to date, the National Tripartite Council feels that those two issues must be resolved if we are to improve efficiency and productivity.”
Farquharson said both employers and employees have long complained about having to move their cases from the tribunal to the Supreme Court in order to enforce the tribunal’s rulings, ramping up the cost of settling matters
According to Farquharson, the NTC recommended the tribunal be brought under the civil side of the Supreme Court. However, he said that idea was rejected by the attorney general.
Now, he said, the NTC has recommended in its report that Industrial Tribunal judgements be registered with the Supreme Court, therefore giving the winning party legs to stand on if the losing party delays payment or denies whatever the ruling recommends.
“The recommendation will allow, once a ruling is made in the new regime, that the ruling is immediately registered with the Supreme Court by the president or vice president of the tribunal,” said Farquharson.
It has also recommended that the tribunal use a two-tier system, where the second tier allows for appeals to be heard by hired retired justices and where those appeals are expedited.
Farquharson said once the consultation stage has finished at the end of this month, the NTC will hope to have the government pass legislation to bring these recommendations into force before the end of the year.
“For us to make this successful, we must have the concurrence of the government and the attorney general to support this matter and, of course, the chief justice plays a critical role,” he said.