While addressing participants at the first workshop hosted by the tribunal held on Tuesday, March 23 Honourable Wheatley said since Attorney at Law Mr Jamal Smith took on the role of Chairman of the Labour Arbitration Tribunal, there were 12 backlogged matters dating back to 2015 with nine new matters to date.
Honourable Wheatley said, “Mr Smith and his team have adjudicated or settled 13 of those matters. Currently, there are eight active matters, and there has already been 15 hearings and two trials for the year, which is a testament to the commitment that the Tribunal has to serve the people of the BVI. Building capacity within the Territory is paramount to keeping the Virgin Islands compliant with international best practices and standards.”
Chairman of the Labour Arbitration Tribunal, Mr. Jamal S. Smith, said the management of the labour market is the most significant aspect of economic development and revitalisation, especially while recovering from the most devastating natural disasters in 2017 and now the COVID-19 pandemic that is heading into its second year.
“The Labour Arbitration Tribunal is central to maintaining certainty and security in the labour market so this first in what will be many more workshops like this supported by the ministry is absolutely critical to our Territory’s economic success,” Mr. Smith said.
The workshop was facilitated by former Presiding Judge of the BVI Commercial Court, Honourable Barry Leon, FCIArb and Partner at Spencer West LLP, Ms. Shan Greer, FCIArb. It focused on the role and powers of the tribunal to procedural hearings, evidence and applications. Participants were also engaged in lectures, group discussions and mock hearings.
Participant, Chief Fire Officer Mr. Zebalon McLean said he enjoyed the workshop and is hoping that labour solutions can be found for employees and employers going forward.
Mr. McLean said, “We signed up for this workshop because we really do want to serve in a way that makes things easier, for not only employees but for employers as well; there must be some level of accountability and we want to have a balance to make sure that many of the problems that we have with labour matters are satiated.”
The Labour Arbitration Tribunal is an independent tribunal set up under the Labour Code, 2010 with the power to make orders and awards with the same force as an order or award of the High Court.
The parties appearing before the body are entitled to the same rights or privileges as they would have before any court. The tribunal makes decisions about labour disputes and it regulates its own procedures as to how it will do so. This includes complaints about things like unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal, redundancy and discrimination in the workplace as well as reviewing certain decisions of the Labour Commissioner.