All Trinidad Union congratulates new Industrial Court president

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

New president of the Industrial Court Heather Seale, left, receives her instrument of appointment from President Christine Kangaloo at President’s House on December 13. – Photo courtesy Office of the President

THE All Trinidad General Workers Union (ATGWU) has congratulated new Industrial Court president Heather Seale on her appointment.

Seale received her instrument of appointment from President Christine Kangaloo on Wednesday.

In a statement on Thursday, ATGWU president Nirvan Maharaj congratulated Seale.

He also thanked her immediate predecessor Deborah Thomas-Felix for her “firm, unwavering and sterling contribution as president to the industrial relations sphere in TT.”

Maharaj said Thomas-Felix’s “fearless advocacy on behalf of an equitable industrial relations climate in TT will always be appreciated.”

He said under the law, the union has no say in determining who should or should not be the Industrial Court president.

On Wednesday, the Office of the President said after consultation with the Chief Justice, as required by section 4 (3) (a) (ii) of the Industrial Relations Act, Seale was appointed president.

Against this background, Maharaj said Seale must be given a fair chance to function in her new role and judged on her own merit.

“Our role will be to deal with any issues that arise in the future.”

Maharaj said because constitutionally, the appointment of an Industrial Court president falls within the ambit of the political directorate, there will always be the perception that the appointments of past presidents and judges of the court may have been politically influenced.

He added it is impossible to prove that this ever happened.

Maharaj said Seale will define her own legacy and stewardship using her experience in industrial relations.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) questioned Seale’s appointment. It expressed concern because Kangaloo’s husband, attorney Kerwyn Garcia, SC, “regularly appears before the Industrial Court on behalf of employers, including state enterprises such as WASA, Caribbean Airlines Ltd and the National Insurance Board (NIB).

The group delivered a letter to the Office of the President on Tuesday, asking Kangaloo to reconsider her decision not to renew Thomas-Felix’s contract.

JTUM has also written to Chief Justice Ivor Archie, seeking clarity on why Thomas-Felix’s contract was not renewed.