Saturday, 16 February 2013 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St. John's - Minister of Labour Dr. Cort says he has engaged the International Labour Organization (ILO) for assistance in changing the manner in which labour officers within his ministry handle disputes.
Speaking at a media conference on Thursday, Dr. Cort said the assistance was sought late in 2012 when two ILO consultants visited Antigua and Barbuda and carried out “extensive workshops” in the area of conciliation and the approach to resolving labour disputes.
“For some time now matters coming to the Labour Department would be handled from a standpoint of adjudication. This means the officer would sit, listen to parties and write detailed reports on who said what before making judgment on the matter as would be done in a court
“We reviewed that approach and with the advice of the ILO we decided to alter that approach because really our officers are conciliators as opposed to adjudicators,” Dr. Cort said.
The new approach is one that would see the officers trying to conciliate and bring parties together, and assist in finding an amicable solution as opposed to determining who is right and who is wrong.
“We have started on that process and while the ILO conciliators were here we used the occasion to invite members of the union to participate in the workshop and reps from employers federation,” Dr. Cort said.
It has been promised that these experts would be brought back to Antigua and Barbuda to perform workshops for employers and workers separately. And according to the Minister, the Employers Federation has already contacted the ILO directly to organize their training session.
“It is a work in progress and we would have to adjust the process as we go forward. I am aware that in some quarters there is the view that the reports are too condensed and may need more flesh.
“I have asked all stakeholders to work with departments to improve the format and outcome,” the Minister said.
He conceded that more must be added to the format of the new system and has added his input on how this can be done. It has been agreed that the report could be improved upon with the addition of a summary of the matter.This would be followed by the position of the parties and then a brief recommendation if the parties were not able to amicably agree to a position.
“Where there is not agreement there will be a recommendation with respect to how the labour department sees the matter in terms of resolution. That is the amended approach to be adopted by the labour department,” the minister said.
Furthermore, there is a process that would allow the parties to take the matter from the department directly to the minister of industrial court.
Dr. Cort said he too would adopt a similar process thus enabling consistency in the approach to labour matters. He believes that all key stakeholders would be on the same page.
The principal difference between then and now, according to the Minister, is that officers would no longer be penning detailed evidence for each case, where such matters are for a court of law and not the role and function of a conciliator.
It has been assured that the changes do not affect the legally prescribed process of dealing with labour related matters.
With the new system, labour dispute reports should take no longer than 30 days to be released to both parties.