The Joint Chambers have noted the comments made by President of the Industrial Court, Justice Deborah Thomas-Felix, at a special sitting to mark the opening of the court’s new term.

The statistics presented by Justice Thomas-Felix in relation to judgments handed down by the Industrial Court do not support her contention that the court is not biased. The statistics she quoted cover the period cover the period 2011-2015; she presented no data on judgements after this period.

Our previous analysis of the 2011-2015 data indicated that only 11% of the total cases were won by employers – the remaining 89% were either won by unions, withdrawn, or settled. By the President Thomas-Felix’s own admission, in the 2011-2015 period a mere 30% of cases in which judgements were delivered were ruled in favour of the employer; this should immediately signal that more balance must be brought to bear.

Businesses are acutely aware that in order to make our country attractive to investors and increase competitiveness, a stable and equitable labour environment must prevail. We remain concerned that despite findings of fault against employees, businesses are routinely ordered to pay some form of “damages”. These awards, in tandem with the nature of the process used to determine cases, continue to undermine competitiveness and make it difficult to run businesses in the country.

Given the current state of the economy, we believe that the time is right for a new approach to labour disputes, which will ensure that business activity is encouraged and competitiveness is placed at the forefront of the national agenda.