ST JOHN’S, Antigua – One of the mediators appointed to clear hundreds of backlogged cases at the Labour Department has singled out security firms as the group of employers most guilty of not turning up for hearings.
Mediator Henderson Bass said business owners are not showing up to hearings when they should and this has caused a number of postponements, leaving security guards in a quandary.
“We are having serious problems with the security firms, with the exception of Special Security Services,” Bass said.
“All the other firms that have matters outstanding at the Labour Department have been giving a lot of problems to attend mediation.”
He added that in some of the cases, security guards are sent home without proper notice or fired for unjust reasons. However, due to negligence on the part of the employer, the cases are not heard.
“That creates a problem and the other teething thing is unless the Labour Department improves on certain functions, we could have those problems going forward,” Bass added.
In recent months, the mediator has blasted the Labour Commissioner for failing to exercise his authority to enable the mediators to effectively carry out their duties.
Bass said Commissioner Hesketh Williams has the authority to summon employers to have issues resolved under the Labour Commissioners Act.
Section 6 of the Labour Commissioners Act “gives the commissioner the power to summon any person, including the parties to a dispute, to attend an enquiry and to give evidence.
“Any person who refuses to comply with the summons is guilty of an offence and, upon summary conviction, liable to a fine not exceeding $500 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.”
The mediators have been granted yet another year to assist the department in reducing the numbers and Bass is hoping that all the inefficiencies at the department will be addressed shortly to move the process forward.