Member of Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago should be part of teachers arbitration tribunal

Dear Editor,

From their respective pronouncements including in SN’s columns of September, 8 2018, there appear clear indications from both of the contending parties – Ministry of Education and Guyana Teachers’ Union  – of a hefty sense of relief – from a the recent confusion of (re)  negotiations, accompanied by anxious expectancy about Arbitration – a process with which the actual players may not be familiar.

There is just a hint of naiveté in the expectation of the Arbitration panel being set up in a week – a timeline that would appear to contradict i) the fact that Terms of Reference have as yet to be finalised; ii) that there is the consideration of utilising relevant representative skills from overseas, presumably CARICOM  countries, and including a Chairman.

Interestingly enough the format was partly anticipated in the 2016 Report of The Commission of Enquiry into the Public Service. In paragraph 287, which could hardly have been pondered upon by the Report’s sponsors, the authors drew attention to the following:

 “287. In Trinidad and Tobago, disputes in relation to public employees are determined by a special tribunal established under its Civil Service Act. Cap 23.01.  the membership of the Tribunal is drawn from the Industrial Court.

The tribunal is empowered to hear and determine any dispute referred to it under the Act which states in part: “An award made by the Special Tribunal is also required to take into consideration certain criteria included in the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) relating to expanding the level of employment, the well-being of the relevant employees and the need for sustained development”.

It is in the above connection therefore that it is respectfully submitted that consideration be given to agreeing on a member of the Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago, to be Chairman/member of the proposed Arbitration Panel.   It is not too far-fetched to point to the coincidence of the very two governments agreeing to sign an oil-related MOU which should clearly indicate a high degree of mutual trust.  Our government could further prove this by implementing paragraph 287 quoted above.

On the other hand however, there are many who would take exception to the implication that there is no trusted local capability to undertake the task of Chairman.  This allows opportunity to respond by identifying for serious consideration, the very Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry in our Public Service, Professor Harold Lutchman – an appointment that would reflect confidence in his authoritative sensitivity to the issues that affect the relationship between the government and its employees.

Yours faithfully,

E.B. John

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