Industrial Court

Waste Disposals (2003) Limited and Envirotec Holdings Limited have written to the head of the Industrial Court expressing concerns that they are being treated unfairly in an injunction relief matter involving the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

The union had sought an injunction after the companies had banned seven workers from entering the compound because they were unvaccinated.

In an ex-parte hearing on December 21, 2021, the Industrial Court instructed the companies to allow the workers back onto the compound and pay them their wages for December 2021.

However, the workers reported to work the following day and were refused entry.

The CWU then filed an application to the Industrial Court for contempt of court proceedings on December 30, 2021. By then, the companies had already applied to the court to have the injunction discharged.

In the letters sent by J.Broome & Associates Employment Consulting (firm) on behalf of the companies to Industrial Court President Deborah Thomas-Felix on January 5, concerns were expressed with how the Industrial Court has handled the matter.

The firm noted that on December 20, 2021, the union filed documents alleging an Industrial Relations offence, whilst also applying for an ex-parte interim injunction.

The firm stated that the union verbally informed the companies of the hearing on December 21, without any substantiating documentation from the court.

The firm added that being fully cognisant of the fact that the union does not possess the power to summon, the companies awaited formal communication from the court, even if the summons was to be served by the other party, as is common throughout the civil jurisdiction of Trinidad and Tobago.

During the intervening period, the firm stated that several calls were made to the court seeking clarity, but even to date, telephone contact for the court’s registry seems to be non-functional.

However, the ex-parte hearing was convened and the court issued an order that the companies pay wages/salaries and allowances to the arrived workers “in an unspecified timeframe for an indefinite period.”

The companies subsequently made an application to the court on December 23 in which they “proffered cogent and compelling reasons as to why the Order for injunctive relief should be discharged, but to date, the Court has not responded to the Company’s plea for a fair chance to be heard in the proceedings, despite the urgency and national importance and impact of such a decision by the court in light of the government’s similar intention with the public sector in a matter of days.”

The firm further stated, “Notwithstanding the Company’s pending Application from 23rd December 2021, the Court has chosen only to respond to a letter from the Union filed on 30th December 2021, by issuing and serving Orders to initiate proceedings for what is alleged to be a contempt of court. Suffice it to say, the Court’s alacrity in which it has dealt with the Union to the Company’s detriment illustrates an apparent incomprehensible bias with the potential to severely undermine and erode the public’s interest and confidence in the Court’s ability to be ‘fair and just, having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and the community as a whole,’ in accordance with section 10 (3)(a) of the Industrial Relations Act 1972, as amended.”

The firm added that the companies remain at a loss as to why the court has embarked on “such an arbitrary course of action, but pray that answers and/or clarity will be provided as the matter progresses since it is a matter of significant public interest and importance.”

The letters were signed by Dr Jamille Broome, Employment and Law Consultant.