The Labour Arbitration Tribunal is a necessary component to the process of settling labour disputes, established in accordance with Section 29 of the Virgin Islands Labour Code, 2010.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, Dr. the Honourable Kedrick Pickering said that efforts to ensure that the Territory’s labour market functions properly and to international standards, led to the establishment of the Labour (Arbitration) Dispute Tribunal as is required by the Labour Code 2010.
Dr. Pickering said: “You will recall that on February 9th 2014, the President and Treasurer of the Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago, the Honourable Deborah Thomas Felix and Mr. Noel Inniss, respectively, visited the Territory.and held several meetings on issues regarding the setup of this body. The Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago has been in existence for over fifty years and is well positioned to guide us on this most important milestone relative to labour matters in the Territory.”
The Deputy Premier further stated that the day is a red-letter day for this government. “As the Territory’s Minister for Labour, I view with interest the severe complexity of the concerns facing the public and I want to assure you, the residents of this Territory, that integrity, fairness and professionalism will prevail as I do everything in my power to ensure that the labour sector is properly regulated and that it works to the benefit of all.” He said.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the new Labour Arbitration Tribunal, Mr. Paul Dennis, Queen’s Counsel, specified the function of the Tribunal and the process by which cases would be deferred to it.
“The Tribunal will really be providing a third level of adjudication. So it will not be a Tribunal of “first-instance”. He said adding, “Parties to a labour dispute will not be referring their complaints or their disputes directly to the Tribunal.”
The Chairman explained that the Tribunal will function as an arbitral Tribunal and that initial complaints and disputes will continue to be deferred to the Labour Commissioner, who will have the first shot at resolving such disputes.
“For whatever reason a solution is not arrived at, at that level, then the labour commissioner defers the dispute to the Minister,” Mr. Dennis QC explained.
He added, “Among the options, available to the Minister, for resolving the dispute, if he is not able to do so, would be a referral of that dispute to the Tribunal. So the Tribunal will only deal with cases on the basis of referrals from the Minister. And that needs to be kept in mind and clearly understood.”
Mr. Paul Dennis, QC, also thanked the Minister and the Government of the Virgin Islands for the opportunity to serve and said that he was pleased to be doing so, as the first chairman. He also noted that as a pioneer, he is expecting there to be challenges but, “we are ready to proceed. As soon as the work that is awaiting us is placed before us, we will be delving in with great enthusiasm and gusto.” He said.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour seeks to promote good labour/management practices at workplaces to ensure stable and harmonious labour relations between employers and employees, and to protect the rights, wages, working conditions, safety, health and welfare of workers, through enforcement of the Virgin Islands’ labour laws.