ARBITRATION AND THE INDUSTRIAL DISPUTE TRIBUNAL IN JAMAICA
Historically, the concept of arbitration is not new to industrial relations in Jamaica. Before the enactment of the Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes act (LRIDA) in 1975, the conduct of industrial relations was subject to agreement and voluntary action, except in areas regarded as essential. The Public Services Arbitration (PUUPSA) law dealt with services that were deemed essential. In addition, the Trades Disputes Arbitration and Enquiry Law provided for the appointment of arbitrators in both the public and private sectors. Arbitration Tribunals were ad hoc and appointed for each dispute.
However, there were certain deficiencies in the law. One of these was the possibility of a strike occurring where there was no industrial dispute as defined and such action would not be illegal. Another was the absence of penalties written into law for the enforcement of awards. The PUUPSA law was repealed and incorporated into LRIDA that sought to correct the omissions.
A royal commission was appointed and it was reported by Major Orde Brown in “Labour conditions in the West Indies” (1939), that the evidence taken by the commission tended to show that the labour movement was aggravated by the absence of good labour laws and tribunals suited for the easy settlement of labour disputes.
A fundamental principle underlying the action of the arbitrator is that he must act fairly.
Undertakings from both parties are given to supply written briefs within a specified time. If parties are unable to supply briefs, by the deadline, parties must request an extension of time in writing.
Once briefs are submitted the Tribunal will schedule a meeting. Opening submissions are usually taken from the aggrieved side, usually the union, who will begin the hearing. Where the dispute relates to the collective agreement, the union usually speaks first and the employer speaks first on disciplinary matters.
Witnesses are summoned, documents presented and all relevant evidence submitted in support of the case.
Upon completion of the hearing, an award is handed down. At least two members of the division (a simple majority) must sign the award to make it binding. Where all three members disagree, the Chairman hands down the Award. An Award may be retroactive but it must not precede the date when the dispute first arose.
A minority report may be submitted if there is a disagreement among members of the Tribunal about the terms of the award. If all three disagree, then the award may be handed down by the chairman. The member disagreeing with the award should consider whether it is appropriate to write a minority report. This may be necessary where the arbitrator feels that his reputation may be damaged or where the arbitrator feels it necessary to set out his reasons. His disagreement is recorded on the award document.
POWERS OF THE TRIBUNAL:
HOWEVER, the Tribunal cannot:
Make an award that is inconsistent with any law involving wages, conditions of employment and hours of work.
Make an award that is inconsistent with the national interest.