Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo is warning employers that they will be made to suffer the consequences if they fail to appear before the Employment Rights Tribunal (ERT) to answer cases brought against them.
“What I have noticed though is that now we have employers who know they have case but refuse to appear before the Employment Rights Tribunal. But I have given the instruction that, effective immediately, when an employer is notified that a case is being heard, after they have had two notices the next notice will say that this is set for X date and if you don’t show up we will assume that you have no objection,”Byer-Suckoo said.
Addressing a Democratic Labour Party (DLP) branch meeting at Lester Vaughan over the weekend,
Byer-Suckoo said it was troubling that the ERT, which was only established in 2012, was already encumbered by a significant backlog, which she blamed on the non-appearance of employers.
In fact, the Minister argued that some employers were deliberately frustrating the system, hoping that all would be forgotten if they ignored the process.
“We have some cases at the tribunal that are sitting there and the only reason that they are still sitting there is because they have been trying to get the employers. It seems as though the employers feel that if they don’t answer the problem will go away. But I have news for them. It is not going away. I have given the instruction that effective immediately we are changing how that works. You will get the call, you will get the letter, but if you choose to ignore the final notice then you do so at your own risk and then you have nobody to blame when the tribunal hears the matter in your absence and makes a decision however they see fit,” Byer-Suckoo stressed.
The Employment Rights Act, which makes provision for the Employments Rights Tribunal, has been a source of contention since its implementation with both businesses and trade unions calling for clarity on a number of key issues.
Earlier this year Minister of Commerce and Industry Donville Inniss expressed concern that the current laws give “all the rights” to employees to the detriment of the businesses themselves.
“I remain a bit troubled that as we have moved forward with some reforms of labour legislation in Barbados, that we may be moving towards a point where employees in Barbados have all the rights and employers’ rights are greatly diminished,” Inniss said in January in an address at the fifth anniversary luncheon and awards ceremony of Crumbz Bakeries at the 3Ws Oval at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, during which he warned that in such a situation there were no winners, and that there was a need for a “frank” conversation on the issue.