More details are needed
IT was reported in the South China Morning Post of December 28, that a new scheme is planned, whereby Labour Department officials will rule on disputes. The plan is proposed as an attempt to reduce the burden on the Labour Tribunal system.
Unnamed officials are reported to have expressed confidence in the abilities of Labour Department officials currently acting as conciliation officers, because last year those conciliation officers correctly predicted 80 per cent of tribunal rulings, and also successfully settled about 12,000 disputes.
In the absence of full details, it would be premature to comment on the new scheme. As the leader in the Post of December 28 pointed out, details of the proposal must first be spelled out.
However, it is not premature to ask why now, 20 years after its establishment, it is considered that the Labour Tribunal system is unable to cope.
It is arguable that any proposal for the setting up of an additional organ of a judicial nature, however modest its scope, will tend to divert attention and resources from existing organs of the same kind, of which the Labour Tribunal is an obvious (though not the only) example.
The experience of United Migrant Workers has been limited by its own short life and by the type of dispute in which it has been called upon to assist (concerning, in the main, domestic workers).
However, given this limited experience, we have to ask if the ability of officials to forecast Labour Tribunal rulings in 80 per cent of cases, is quite the same thing as the ability to judge in a labour dispute. Also the claim of a successful settlementof 12,000 disputes a year also needs to be questioned: what is meant by '' successful''? The Labour Tribunal system resembles the curate's egg - parts of it are excellent. The other parts badly need attention, and it is a pity that the whole is so rarely - one could almost say never - in the public eye. The effect of such a patchy performance is akin to that of a lottery, but without the fairness that a lottery offers.
JOVITA O. LEANO Trustee United Migrant Workers Interim Trust