Composition, Role and function of the Industrial Dispute Tribunal. Composition
The Industrial Dispute Tribunal was conceptualized as an established permanent body for easier access to arbitration, an alternative to industrial action, and as an avenue for economic growth through its dispute settlement and income policy potential. According to George Phillip in his book A-Z of Industrial Relations Practice at the work place “Dispute may be defined as a quarrel between a worker and an employer or between a trade union and employer or between groups of unions and employers, relating to terms and condition of employment”. Industrial relations had its roots in the industrial revolution which created the modern employment relationship by initiating free labor markets and large-scale industrial organizations with thousands of wage workers. As society wrestled with these massive economic and social changes, labor problems arose. Low wages, long working hours, monotonous and dangerous work, and abusive supervisory practices led to high employee turnover, violent strikes, and the threat of social instability. In Jamaica 1938 the frustration of the working class which had built up over the years, became explosive. A wave of industrial unrest swept the country, with workers on the waterfront, in the sugar industry, transportation sector and the government service taking industrial action. Between January and June of 1938, there were several outbreaks of disturbances, beginning with a strike by cane cutters on the Serge Island Sugar Estate in St. Thomas. Other riots included the general strikes on the Kingston waterfront on May 21st and the strike by street cleaners on May 23rd. There were also other general strikes by dock and transport workers, municipal employees, as well as food and tobacco workers. However, one of the major industrial action that took place during this time was the Frome Riot of 1938. This riot had left six dead, fifty wounded and 89 charged with rioting. Frome was the breaking point in the seething unrest island wide over pay and conditions of work and massive unemployment. It was also the start of a series of strikes, demonstrations and disturbances in which Sir Alexander Bustamante played a major role. The riots which occurred throughout this period proved to be very significant as they were the catalysts for the improvement of working conditions for the working class. This was achieved through the formation of trade unions and political parties which lobbied for increased workers’ benefits and rights which eventually led to the granting of Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944, which was the right of all adults, regardless of class, sex, race, religion, etc., to vote. With all this labour unrest taking place there became a need for some sort of regulation that would govern the working condition and treatment of workers. As a result a law was instituted that govern labour relations in Jamaica. Industrial disputes in Jamaica were now settled through the route of Arbitration, provided for under the Public Utility Undertaking and Public Services Arbitration (PUUPSA) Law and the Trade Disputes Arbitration and Enquiry Law. The PUUPSA law established that it was illegal for workers to strike or for employers to declare a lockout in connection with any trade dispute. Unless the dispute had been properly reported to the Labour Minister and the Minister had failed to act within the time specified in the law. However, there were certain deficiencies in the law. One of these was the possibility of a strike occurring where there was no industrial dispute as defined and such action would not be illegal. Another was the absence of penalties written into law for the enforcement of awards. Also the arbitrator acting under the Arbitration Act did not have the power to reinstate a worker. It was even difficult to select an arbitrator by parties and this sometimes result in a very long process. Perhaps one of the major deficiencies...
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