After three long years and five months, victory has finally come to the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) and the Workers it represents at Independence Agencies Ltd.
On January 14, female high court judge, Justice Margaret Price-Findlay ruled in favour of the Union and against the former Minister of Labour, Karl Hood and awarded the union $5,000.00 in cost.
The TAWU/Independence Agencies issue arose out of an incident on the morning of July 14, 2010 while the Ministry of Labour was about to conduct a poll at the business place for recognition of the workers.
It is alleged that the company’s attorney-at-law, Carol Bristol turned up at the conference room at Independence Agencies and demanded that workers at CK’s Super-Valu be allowed to vote in the poll even though those workers had never requested representation from TAWU to be their Bargaining Agent.
The union held the view that the employer was trying to ensure that TAWU did not get the requisite majority by including workers with whom the Union did not have a relationship.
TAWU took objection and insisted that the poll proceed with only the workers employed at Independence Agencies allowed to cast ballots.
The evidence also seemed to suggest that on the said morning of the poll, Labour Minister Hood called to speak to the company’s attorney and also one of the officials of the union who was on the premises.
The Union reportedly pointed out to Hood that there are many examples of a company having one or more Bargaining Units for workers.
The TAWU official is said to have suggested to the then Labour Minister that what he could do was conduct the poll, and if there was a problem, he could refuse to certify the Union and state reasons for not issuing his certificate.
However, the Minister stopped the poll and TAWU decided to take the matter before the High Court.
The union filed an application for judicial review and an Order of Mandamus compelling the Minister to conduct the poll as applied for by TAWU.
Justice Price Finlay in handing down the Judgment issued the following order.
(1). The Labour Commissioner and not the Minister is the proper authority to determine the Bargaining Unit upon an application for certification by a Trade Union.
(2). A Declaration that the Minister unilaterally and without lawful authority, arbitrarily cancelled a poll scheduled by the Labour Commissioner in relation to employees at Independence Agencies Limited.
(3). An injunction restraining the Minister from altering or in any way interfering with the bargaining unit determined by the Labour Commissioner as considered appropriate in the circumstances and acting pursuant to section 35 of the Labour Relations Act
(4). A Declaration that the Minister has no lawful authority pursuant to the Labour Relations Act or otherwise to dictate to the Applicant that it must apply to be certified as the Bargaining Agent for the workers at both CK’s and Independence Agencies
(5). An Order directing the Minister to institute a poll in relation to the employees at Independence Agencies Limited pursuant to his statutory duty under section 36 (b) of the Labour Relations Act.
Workers of Independence Agencies after three years of waiting, have been urged to get ready as polling day is expected very soon.
The workers are also being advised to not be fooled by what will be told to them by those who want to stop them from getting Trade Union representation, and that every effort will be made to prevent them getting better working conditions.
TAWU is seeking to assure the workers at the business place that on polling day, they will be able to demonstrate their democratic right to choose a strong union to represent them and a union, which brings the best benefits to them.