Dear Editor: Why was Thomas-Felix moved? Industrial Court owes T&T transparency

From the onset I wish to indicate that I hold no brief for either the outgoing office holder or the newly appointed President of the Industrial Court.

However, as an industrial relations practitioner I wish to indicate that without any transparency on what transpired in this instance a lot of issues remain veiled in secrecy.

Then president of the Industrial Court Deborah Thomas-Felix (left) shares a laugh with Chief Justice Ivor Archie.

Firstly, the Industrial Court as an institution clearly frowns on poor industrial relations practices as it relates to employment contracts and tenure of service.

Secondly, what were the circumstances which warranted the removal of a sitting Industrial Court president by not renewing the contract appointment?

It appears however to John Public that good and proper industrial relations practices were not followed in the non-renewal of Ms Deborah Thomas-Felix’s contract and the subsequent appointment of Her Honour Mrs Heather Seale as the new president of the Industrial Court.

If that is not so then those who presided over this matter owe the public an explanation as to what actually transpired to avoid unnecessary speculation.

New Industrial Court president Heather Seale (left) receives her letter of appointment from Trinidad and Tobago president Christine Kangaloo.
Photo: Office of the President

The Industrial Court’s mission is to be an effective court upholding the principles and practices of good industrial relations as pillars of industrial peace, economic and social development.

And its vision is to be an industrial relations court established under the constitution which is fair, equitable and expeditious in dispensing social justice.

Therefore, any matter that insinuates there may be ulterior motives or impinges on or suggests that the independence of the Court is being tampered with should be condemned.

The Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago.

Surely, we deserve an explanation as to why the contract of employment of the outgoing President of the Industrial Court was not renewed.

I however will not hold my breath for full accountability on this recent development as all that is required of the President and the Chief Justice, as stated in the Industrial Relations Act, is a consultation amongst themselves before the appointment is made—and I do not expect either of them to step out of their crease to abate the public concerns that arose subsequently.

What I will say however is that this development, as it relates to the appointment of a new Industrial Court president, brings to the fore once again the issue of appointment of judges to the Industrial Court and their tenure of office, which is controlled by an outdated Industrial Relations Act.

Trinidad and Tobago President Christine Kangaloo (centre, white suit) at opening of Law Term in September 2023.
Photo: Office of the President

Surely this is not good for the independence of such an important body that is expected to dispense justice with fairness and equity.

The responsibility now is for those in office to do what is necessary to make the necessary amendments to the jurassic Industrial Relations Act to address amongst others this deficiency in the appointment of the president of the Industrial Court and the other appointed judges.

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About Bryan St Louis

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