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The Essential Act provides for an Arbitration Tribunal for the settlement of disputes in Essential Services. This act requires the limitation of industrial action in the Essential Services and prohibits strikes and lockouts in such undertakings and services unless, certain procedures are followed in trade disputes in essential services as listed in the schedule to the Act including all services in connection with the public hospitals owned and operated by the Government;
Trade Dispute Procedure
Trade disputes in any essential service are to be reported to the Minister by any of the relevant employers’ organization, employer or trade union on behalf of workers who are parties to the dispute. The dispute may also be reported to the Minister by any other organization not directly involved in negotiations in which the dispute exist or was apprehended.
The Minister may:
if satisfied that there is suitable machinery of negotiation or arbitration for the settlement of the dispute, and that such machinery has not been exhausted, refer the matter for settlement to that machinery, or refer the dispute to the Tribunal, if not settled within ten days of such reference to such suitable machinery;
take such steps as are expedient to promote the settlement of the dispute or may refer the matter for settlement by the Tribunal within one month from the date on which the matter was first reported to the Minister of Labour by any other organization not directly involved in the negotiations.
The Tribunal established under this Act is the Essential Services Arbitration Tribunal (the Tribunal) consisting of the following persons appointed by the Minister:
three appointed members, one of whom shall be appointed as the Chairman;
two other members, one of whom shall be chosen to represent employers and the other to represent employees;
panels of persons chosen to represent employers and employees respectively shall be constituted by the Minister after consultations with the relevant representative organizations. Members chosen to represent employers and employees at any sitting of the Tribunal shall be selected from these panels by the Minister;
members of the Tribunal hold office for two years and may be re-appointed;
the Secretary of the Tribunal is a public officer appointed by the Minister;
the employer and employee representatives and one other member constitute a quorum at any sitting of the Tribunal;
where the members of the Tribunal are evenly divided in respect of their decision, the matter shall be disposed of as the Chairman or other member presiding shall determine.
The Tribunal regulates its own proceedings.
Prohibition of Lockouts and Strikes
Strikes and lockouts are prohibited in connection with any trade dispute in the essential services unless:
the dispute has been reported by a person or an organization not directly involved in the negotiation in which the dispute exists;
one month has elapsed since the date of the report; and
the dispute has not during that time been referred by the Minister for settlement by the Tribunal.
Terms of Reference and Award
The Minister determines the terms of reference for the Tribunal, and the Tribunal enquires into the matters referred to it and reports to the Minister.
The Tribunal makes its awards and furnishes its advice as the case may be to the Minister without delay and where practicable within twenty-one days from the date of reference.
Any agreement, decision, or award made under this Act shall be binding on employers and workers, and shall be an implied term of the contract between the employer and workers as applicable.
Samuel J. Goolsarran.