The Malta Employers’ Association organised a conference on Wednesday, 20th February at the Excelsior Hotel about the reform of the Industrial Tribunal. The event focused on the proposals which were submitted by the MEA about the reform of the Employment and Industrial Relations Act in 2014, which also included recommendations about the Industrial Tribunal. The conference was addressed by various stakeholders, including employers, unions, Industrial Tribunal chairpersons, labour law practitioners, government representatives, the Hon. Claudette Buttigieg from the Nationalist Party and the Hon. Helena Dalli, Minister for European Affairs and Equality. Some film footage of the event is found on this link.
In her opening address, MEA president Dolores Sammut Bonnici gave an overview of the history of the Industrial Tribunal and how the context in which it operates has changed over the years. She stated that the conference is the right forum for the social partners to express their views on whether there is a need for a reform, and if yes, what type of changes are required.
The conference was also addressed by Dr. Andrew Borg Cardona, who focused on the problems that are facing the Industrial Tribunal today, which made it difficult to provide proper advice to employers and employees. Amongst the issues he mentioned the lack of common ground as to what constitutes a redundancy, or dismissal. He said that here exist no guidelines for compensation, as there are in other countries. He also referred to the inconsistency in the decisions delivered on dismissal cases and stressed that rather than having a concurrence of five bodies tackling employment matters, there should be just one employment court.
Dr. Charlotte Camilleri delivered a breakdown of Industrial Tribunal decisions over the years and explained the details of the proposals which MEA has presented for a more effective functioning of the Tribunal.
Among MEA’s proposals, one finds:
‘The Tribunal whether convened to hear alleged unfair dismissal/alleged discrimination cases or industrial disputes will be chaired by a Chairperson who has to be a qualified lawyer with seven years’ experience along with two lay members, not being lawyers. Each party to the suit will be entitled to choose a member from a panel of members as currently composed. The said identified members shall provide the Chair with the technical assistance and practical work environment experience which may be required in dealing with such cases. The role of these two members shall not be merely consultative. To be validated the decision of the Tribunal requires the endorsement of the chairperson and at least one of the members.’ All the proposals may be found on this link.
Representatives from the GWU, UHM, FORUM Unions Maltin and CMTU also gave their views on how the Tribunal should be reformed. One interesting proposal was to introduce compulsory mediation before a Tribunal case is heard as a means of alternative dispute resolution.
The event also included a panel discussion, moderated by Ms. Vanessa Mac Donald, with Mr. Arthur Muscat (MEA Vice President), Dr. Matthew Brincat (Chairperson, Malta Employment Lawyers Association), Ms. Diane Vella Muscat (Director General, DIER) and Mr. Franco Masini (Industrial Tribunal Chairperson).
This was followed by a lively discussion from the floor.
This conference has served the purpose of following up on the debate about the Industrial Tribunal that took place in parliament a few weeks ago, to listen to the views of other stakeholders involved in the issue, and also to re-enforce the proposals that have been presented by the Association in preparation for further developments that are expected in the near future.