…in light of public servants wage standoff
The establishment of an industrial court to hear matters on workers’ grievances and other labour issues is necessary, according to Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes.
According to an article in today’s Guyana Times newspaper, similar views were also expressed by Member of Parliament and former Attorney General Anil Nandlall.
Attorney Nigel Hughes
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall
Both Attorneys, during interviews with the newspaper, pointed out that there were many cases of ongoing grievances and work-related issues plaguing employees, who sometimes received no justice. The most recent is the deadlock between the Government and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), which had proposed a “living wage” for workers.
Hughes stated that it would be good to have the specialised court established because cases would be dealt with in a timely manner with little to no backlog. However, he proposed that before any such court is built, the Administration needs to bring the existing judicial institutions up to an acceptable level, whereby there are no backlog of cases.
Also, he said it was important for the Administration to consider if the country had the capacity to build another court.
“Although adding another layer to the system is good, it might create more frustration for us,” he asserted.
The People United and General Workers Union (PU&GWU) had circulated a letter to the media, requesting the coalition Government and the Opposition to move to Parliament to establish an Industrial Court, with the status of the High Court, to hear and determine disputes relating to employment and labour relations.
The Union stated that it was pushing the parties for consent since both of them, in power and on the campaign trail, as well as at Labour Day rallies and marches, promised the working class and their trade unions a good and strong labour sector.
In the letter, the Union stated, “Due to the number of unsolved and unsettled cases, lack of enforcement of existing labour laws, failure of Guyana signing on to more international labour laws and International Labour Organisation (ILO) and International Maritime Organisation labour conventions/laws and lack of addressing ongoing grievances and general work-related issues affecting the working class, the People United and General Workers Union (PU&GWU) strongly believes that the way to address these matters and to establish a strong, effective and improved labour sector in Guyana, and also to address workers, their trade unions, and their general grievances in a timely manner, thus the Government of Guyana needs to urgently establish an Industrial Court.”
Currently, labour matters are handled by the Social Protection Ministry’s Labour Department and, in some cases, these matters would be taken to the High Court – under the previous Administration, there was a dedicated Labour Ministry.
Nandlall, meanwhile, said that an Industrial Court would prevent this from occurring since, in some cases, employees would not have the money to hire a lawyer to represent them. He said that an established court would have specialised lawyers and judges to deliver a better quality of justice in a faster manner.
“The concept of a specialised court to deal with these matters is a good one,” he opined, recalling that under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, specialised courts were established to deal with particular issues which would have otherwise fallen into the hands of the High Court or the Magistrates’ Courts.
He stated that the formation of such an institution would have its advantages, particularly in the hearing of cases immediately rather than having to join the “long backlog of unrelated cases”.
However, Nandlall indicated that the establishment of an Industrial Court would be dependent on whether there were a significant number of disputes to engage a tribunal.
Presently, the Government and the GPSU are at a standstill on salary increase negotiations. While Government maintains that it will not budge from its 10 per cent offer, the GPSU has been holding out and has even suggested that the two parties meet again for more talks. President David Granger has, however, said there was nothing more that could be offered at this time.