ERT knocks state-owned enterprise’s handling of dispute

The Employment Rights Tribunal (ERT) has slammed the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) for its handling of an employment dispute involving  BAMC employee, Joy Coppin.

While the settlement avoided a full trial, the ERT reserved tough words for the state-owned farm company, the former owner of estates in sugar production. The tribunal called for strict compliance with labour laws,  underscoring the necessity for organisations to adhere to procedural and legislative guidelines to prevent prolonged disputes and ensure fair treatment for employees.

During the hearing, details of the dispute were not revealed but the tribunal highlighted significant procedural lapses and a disregard for established rules and regulations.

Voicing his displeasure with how the matter was handled, tribunal member Frederick Forde said: “I wish to express my dissatisfaction that the BAMC could not expect the Labour Department to wait from March to the end of the crop to have a conciliation meeting.

“That was not in good taste, in my opinion, only because when I read the documents because they were at the first meeting, that failed. It seemed to me that they decided they weren’t going to any more meetings until the end of the crop, and in my mind, that was very disrespectful to the Labour Department.”

Forde also noted that BAMC’s internal mishandling extended beyond mere scheduling issues.

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“Having read the documents that were submitted, I don’t know why it took so long for a reconciliation because the BAMC did not follow its own rules and regulations, neither did it follow the Employment Tribunal’s, nor did it follow the advice of its human resource consultant,” he said.

The tribunal member suggested that in the future, the company should “follow its own rules, follow the legislation, and take good, proper advice”.

ERT deputy chair Kathy-Ann Hamblin backed her colleague’s statements, describing the developments as a ‘perennial problem” often seen by the board.

“The majority of these cases can well be disposed of if the parties follow their own rule that is related to disciplinary procedures, and certainly if they follow the Employment Rights Act,” she said.

Despite these criticisms, the hearing saw a positive resolution as the case avoided a full trial, a resolution praised by all parties involved.

Attorney Sean Lewis, representing Joy Coppin, informed the tribunal that the parties had reached a settlement, averting the need for a hearing. The BAMC was represented by attorney-at-Law Lennox Miller.

Hamblin commended both parties for their diligence in reaching an agreement: “That’s great news. That is what we are here for, I applaud both of you for the effort you put in, the diligence with which you pursued the settlement so that you could come back to us within days of case management to confirm that you were able to resolve the matter.”

Further praising the parties involved, the deputy chair shared that such management is seldom acted on despite its continuous encouragement by the tribunal.

Other members of the tribunal, Forde and Dr Cathy Norville-Rochester echoed Hamblin’s sentiments, expressing relief that the matter was resolved without a lengthy trial. (SM)


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