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The Ministry of Labor of Barbados sent a delegation of two officials to the Industrial Disputes Tribunal of Jamaica to learn about its operation in hopes of developing a similar institution in Barbados. Barbados was interested in this topic because of the passage of the Employment Rights Act, 2012, which mandated that an Employment Rights Tribunal be established in the country.
The visiting officials toured both the Ministry of Labor and the Industrial Disputes Tribunal during the activity. The visiting delegation was able to learn about the Ministry’s roles in maintaining industrial harmony and how cases are referred to the Industrial Disputes Tribunal or dealt with through the Ministry’s internal conciliation process, and also had the opportunity to observe a Conciliation Meeting. On visiting the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, the Barbadian delegation learned about its powers and functions and observed two cases that were being heard there.
Among the visit’s main results and findings, the Barbadian delegation noted that they gained considerable knowledge of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal’s organization and procedures; that the Jamaican Minister of Labor has powers that exceed his counterpart in Barbados (there is no equivalent of the Chief Labor Officer in Jamaica); and that the existence of an independent tribunal for hearing labor matters offers distinct advantages over handling industrial disputes purely within the Ministry. The delegation noted in its report that Barbados would benefit from undertaking additional study tours to expose more officers to the work of the Tribunal, and that the clear procedures and guidelines for the Tribunal, along with its institutional independence, could serve as models for Barbados when setting up its own equivalent.
Next steps to take for Barbados will include meeting the new Tribunal’s staffing and financial needs, establishing separate premises for the Tribunal, and sharing documentation between the tribunals in Jamaica and Barbados. The Barbadian tribunal is now preparing its rules of procedure and is planning on beginning hearings in 2014. The delegation of Barbados commented that its expectations of gaining practical and theoretical insights into the operation of Jamaica’s industrial relations procedures and Industrial Disputes Tribunal were fully met.