THE Employers Consultative Association (ECA) says the Industrial Court is both relevant and vital.
In a statement, the ECA said any conversation on the relevance of the court must be viewed within its context of the role, responsibility and jurisdiction and socio-economic realities.
On Tuesday, after the court imposed an injunction restraining Petrotrin from terminating its workers, the company’s chairman Wilfred Espinet criticised the court, saying both it and the idea of trade unions were outdated and out of touch with the realities on the ground.
“I would say that it (the industrial court ) was structured and given laws in the context of a different time. I think the time has come now for us to review it like we review everything else to see if it is relevant in today’s environment,” Espinet said.
He was immediately cautioned and muzzled by the company’s lawyers.
In its statement, the ECA said it held in high regard the role of all legislative arms of the country, including the Industrial Court.
“Moreover, in the promotion of equal opportunity and the advancement of equal rights for all citizens within a democratic society, the Industrial Court is a vital institutional partner for progress in this area. We cannot, on the one hand, say that we support equal opportunity, but on the other, fail to support an institution whose existence is to promote the principles of fairness and natural justice.”
The ECA said the court’s role of adjudication in collective interest and individual rights disputes was a critical element of the International Labour Organisation’s Decent Work agenda and encouraged greater levels of responsibility and accountability on the part of employers, trade unions and employees.
“Like other industrial courts and tribunals around the world, our Industrial Court is bound by the principles of what is fair and just to all who may be affected by its decisions. This must be a consistent characteristic of the court – to act in accordance with the principles of equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of any case before it, having regard to the principles and practices of good industrial relations (Industrial Relations Act, Section 10:3).”
As it spoke on the relevance of trade unions, the ECA said those bodies remained a vital component of any functioning industrial relations system.
“Admittedly, the ECA has repeatedly articulated that opportunities do exist for trade unions to modernise their modus operandi and therefore, their effectiveness, in respect of advancing labour and social policy.
Additionally, the principle of tripartism demands that social partners – government, employers and labour – work in tandem for the advancement of industrial peace, economic stability and better quality of life for all citizens. We must keep in mind that the tripartite approach, enabled by meaningful social dialogue has been one of the key drivers in the economic progress of many developed countries around the world.”
The ECA said the question of reform and updating of labour laws was one all stakeholders have identified as necessary and urgent.
“The ECA has repeatedly communicated that it is time for putting aside historical and ideological differences and for focusing on collaboration, not confrontation, in respect of facilitating the type of progressive changes to critical pieces of labour legislation that will take us into the future we want to create for the current and next generation.”