Samuel James, the President of the Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade Union, says that lack of resources is one of the many reasons the Industrial Court is unable to handle cases in an expeditious manner.
James admits that some matters have been before the Industrial Court for years – which, he says, gives truth to the adage “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
The Court, which was established in the mid-1970s, was intended to remove industrial matters from the mainstream courts and have employee-employer disputes dealt with in a timely manner.
However, James says, this has not been the case for many years. And the court – like other entities, such as the Labour Department – is not given the priority it deserves.
It is in urgent need of human and financial resources to efficiently do its job, the Union President says.
Meanwhile, James says the time has come for the appointment of Industrial Court officers – including the president and the deputy president – to be removed from the hands of the Minister.
As with the other courts, James says the Industrial Court should exercise some level of autonomy and should not have to wait on the Attorney-General to sign off on officers’ contracts.
Further, if the Industrial Court is to cater for the needs of workers, and, in particular the poor, then its officers must have security of tenure, James insists.
Having worked in the public sector, James says he has had to deal with some level of political interference from a minister. However, workers must learn that their job is to follow the law and not instructions, he says.