THE Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) is once again expressing dissatisfaction over judgments by the Industrial Court describing them as sometimes “been arbitrary, unfair and irrational.”
This latest comment comes in the wake of a decision of the court to discontinue an inquiry into allegations of contempt of court raised by the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) against the TTCIC.
In a release on Tuesday, the TTCIC said that this decision has raised more questions than it has provided answers.
“While the TTCIC is relieved that good sense has prevailed in this matter, a number of burning issues remain unresolved.
The business community has for a long time been expressing concern about The Court’s judgements, many of which they believe to have been arbitrary, unfair and irrational,” the release stated.
At a TTCIC breakfast meeting in November 2016 on The Impact of Industrial Court Judgements On Your Business, various parties criticised the court’s “mode of operation, citing examples of outcomes that they felt to be wholly unfair. The prevailing opinion was that the industrial relations environment was constraining productivity because of employers’ inability to get fair judgements at The Court,” the release stated.
The release stated, “Following news reports on the discussion JTUM issued a paid advertisement which alleged contempt of The Court on the part of the TTCIC and participating speakers. The Court subsequently “commanded” the TTCIC, Messrs. Gabriel Faria, Frank Mouttet, and Derek Ali to appear before it in connection with an inquiry into a possible contempt of court and provide as evidence every conceivable form of recorded material related to the breakfast meeting.
“In the months that followed, the Chamber and the three gentlemen incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees preparing for a Court’s inquiry.
The TTCIC said that JTUM requested and were allowed to be a party to the inquiry.
It said that after two-years-and-eight months JITUM failed to provide a single statement or any evidence in support of their claim.
“The Court’s August 7 order to discontinue the inquiry has, according to the Court, resulted from JTUM’s failure to respond. This outcome has left the TTCIC even more dissatisfied with The Court than it was before,” the statement noted.
And TTCIC asked the following to be considered:
- The Industrial Court summoned the TTCIC (and two private citizens) to an inquiry that stemmed from a statement by JTUM alleging contempt of court by individuals who questioned The Court’s rulings in a public forum. Should The Court have the right to be judge and jury in a matter related to its own impartiality?
- Do we, as citizens of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, have a right to voice our opinions on the operations of the institutions of our country? The Court’s decision to discontinue its inquiry has left this concern unresolved. Where, for example, is the line drawn between freedom of expression and contempt? Isn’t free speech a basic tenet of a functioning democracy?
- Having successfully applied to become a party to The Court’s inquiry into the alleged contempt, JTUM failed to respond to no less than five requests from The Court for submissions (three written, two oral). Was this not contempt of court? Would The Court have treated the TTCIC and the three individuals similarly if they had failed to comply with the Court’s requests?
- The Court’s inquiry has had both a financial and emotional strain on the affected parties. Shouldn’t The Court make JTUM liable for the costs that resulted from a matter it requested publicly, became a party to, and was subsequently discontinued because of its own failure to participate?
- The matter was discontinued two years and eight months after. According to The Court, this was due to the lack of feedback from JTUM. Would the course of action have been the same if a member of the business community failed to respond to The Court? Is this the action of an independent and fair authority? This behavior exemplifies precisely what is troubling to the business community.
TTCIC again called for the review and reform of the 46-year old Industrial Relations Act.