Labour complaints tribunal empaneled
In cases where workers are unjustly terminated by an employer, those labourers feel as if there’s no one to listen to their concerns. That’s where there newly empaneled Labour Complaints Tribunal comes in. The tribunal was established for the purpose of providing a fair and impartial appeal process arising from complaints of unfair dismissal or wrongful termination. The tribunal began its work in March with a critical case management system and procedures. Its first decision was delivered on October 12. The tribunal, empaneled for the first time, is coming to life at a time where there is plenty skepticism over the legal system’s ability to deliver justice. We raised that concern with the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Labour, Valentino Shal.
Valentino Shal, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Labour: “We need to establish a culture of respect for the rule of law. We need to establish a culture for respect of the rights of workers and of course employers have rights too so if a case can be brought before the tribunal in this instance and it may not be in favor of the worker you know the tribunal may find in favor of the employer and the employer may have been well within his right afforded to him under the labor law for the action he took in regards to the workers so it protects everyone. But the important thing is that there is a place where you can go to have this matter properly and fully ventilated and the tribunal is a representative body there is a representative of the minister, there is a representative of the Chief Justice, there is a representative of employers, there is a representative of the workers and of course the labor commissioner is an ex officio so we think that the make up of the body is well balanced and the law requires that the tribunal operates with integrity and without interference from anyone and so we set it up and we let it do its job and so that its findings are fair and just and it’s beneficial to the society and the economy because you know both workers and employers are important members of our society.”
The tribunal’s work is certainly cut out for them. There are more than one hundred matters before the body. CEO Shal explained while the process is painstaking, it is one that will ensure fair play.
Valentino Shal, Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Labour: “They delivered their first judgment and they’re hearing several cases and we have a case log of about 165 cases at the moment and so it’s quite substantial work and I really want to extend my gratitude and the ministry’s gratitude to members of the tribunal. It’s no easy task that they have agreed to take up for us and so I really want to thank them for their hard work, for their diligence in trying to ensure that there is fair play in the labor market. I’m sure that the tribunal is moving diligently with every case that comes through I think they have to vet the cases to see if they have any standing first. If they do they proceed to hear them and if they don’t then they inform the complainant that the case has no standing and they need to take it elsewhere or they don’t have a case to present. There is a lot of cases and I think that as time goes by they will move with greater efficiency but one key important thing about timing is that if any worker who wishes to bring a case before the tribunal must do so within 21 days of the dismissal or termination. If you come beyond that you have lost the privilege to come before the tribunal and so you might have to take that to the regular courts but so it’s important for workers to keep that in mind.”
The tribunal is made up of five members: attorney, Anthony Sylvestre is the chair; Ashanti Arthurs-Marin, who was nominated by the Chief Justice; Jacqueline Jex, who was nominated by the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Ella Waight for the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) and the Labour Commissioner, who is an ex-officio member. /