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President of the Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago, Deborah Thomas-Felix.

Editor

The Industrial Court is set to deliver an unprecedented record number of a total of 45 judgments over a period of eight days, beginning this morning.

Of that number, 26 will be delivered in a four-day period between today and Friday—except Thursday which is a public holiday—Corpus Christi.

The remaining 19 judgments will also be delivered over a four-day period next week as next Friday is also a public holiday—Labour Day.

The 45 judgments were written by Industrial Court judges who each wrote their respective findings while work-from-home measures were in place for them during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

Of the 26 judgments to be delivered from today—21 pertains to wrongful dismissal/termination of services

Two others are to be delivered for breakdown in negotiations, one in relation to maternity benefits, one in respect to unilateral alteration of job position and the other in connection with forced retirement.

Next week, the 19 judgments to be delivered are mainly for wrongful dismissal/termination of services.

In an interview, the court’s president Deborah Thomas-Felix noted that the COVID-19 restrictions did not prevent judges and the court’s supporting staff such as note-takers and transcriptionists from completing the task.

She noted that this was done despite the severe shortage of note-takers and transcriptionists at the Industrial Court.

Thomas-Felix said although there were no sittings, these supporting staff members worked around the clock, also under the work-from-home environment, to ensure judges were provided with the necessary paperwork to write their respective judgments.

She said as the supporting staff completed the paperwork, each judge began writing their judgment.

She also commended the staff and judges for going the extra mile within a two-week time span to complete the 45 judgments.

In a letter sent to stakeholders. Thomas-Felix said everyone was looking for the resumption of the Industrial Court from today.

The letter said, “While many things have changed and will continue to change going forward, one thing which remains constant is our commitment to your safety when you visit our buildings. Health and Safety and infection control will continue to be a top priority for us at the court.”

She said some new measures will be implemented.

She noted that all filings, open court hearings, case management and conciliation hearings will continue to be conducted in a safe and comfortable environment.

“To this end, you will be required to wear a mask to enter the Port-of-Spain and San Fernando buildings. Upon entry, the court’s personnel will conduct temperature tests, please note, that the Industrial Court reserves the right to deny entry to persons who exhibit flu-like symptoms, such as elevated temperatures.”

In her letter, she said people will be required to use the hand sanitisers provided when they enter the buildings.

The witness rooms have been re-painted and re-outfitted.

Those attending the courts have been advised that there will no longer be magazines, newspapers, etc. in these rooms since these items are difficult to disinfect.

The court will be introducing social distancing guidelines and protocols.

She has also urged stakeholders to restrict the number of attendees to court hearings to only the parties directly involved in these hearings.

Witnesses are required to remain in a witness room until they are requested to give evidence.

She said since March, 16, the court’s security has sole control of the entrances and the exits of the court buildings.

As a result, the court’s security will open and close all the doors to the entrances and the exits to prevent the staff and the public from having any contact with door knobs or door handles.

On March 17, drop boxes were placed at the court’s entrances.

These drop boxes are to be used by all litigants to submit evidence and arguments, witness statements, correspondence and other documents.

Documents from the drop boxes are collected and processed and parties can collect their stamped copies approximately half- an- hour after the time of the initial deposit in the drop boxes.

She made it clear that filing of cases will no longer be permitted at the counter of the registry.