Water Commission Employers v Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and the National Workers Union, Trade Unions

 
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Industrial Dispute Tribunal

Lynch, C.; Holiness, R.; White, R.

IDT 2 of 1975

Water Commission Employers
and
Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and the National Workers Union, Trade Unions

Labour Law - Disciplinary Action — Suspension

REFERENCE:
1

On the 4th July, 1975, the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment in accordance with section 9(6) of the Labour Industrial Disputes Act, 1975, referred to the Tribunal for settlement, an industrial dispute between the employers and certain categories of the Commission's employees presented by the Trade Unions.

2

The Division of the Tribunal selected in accordance with section 8(2) of the Act to hear the dispute was as follows:

Mr. B.W. Lynch

-

Chairman

Mr. Noel Holness

-

Employers' Representative

Mr. Dorrel White

-

Workers' Representative

3

Parties:

4

Water Commission was represented by:

Mr. J. F. Pattinson

-

Legal

Mr. J.M. Weller

Mr. L. Dixon

Miss A. Ho-on

5

The Trade Unions were represented by:

Mr. Percy Crawle

-

National Workers Union.

SITTINGS & SUBMISSIONS:
6

Written briefs were presented by the parties to the dispute and at the only hearing held on the 18th August, 1975, Mr. J. F. Patterson, attorney-at-law and Mr. Percy Crawle, representing the employer and the Trade Unions, respectively, made oral submissions.

HISTORY:
7

On the 14th May, 1974, at the Distribution Department of the Water Commission's premises, Cavaliers, Marescaux Road, shortly after 8.00 a.m. a fight took place between Mr. Henley Wilson, a Water Inspector and Mr. Maurice Mitchell, an Engineer. Mr. Mitchell was employed in a supervisory capacity.

8

In fact there were two fights:

The First: in the distribution office which was apparently quickly parted by the workers and according to the statement of the Distribution Engineer: “I came out and saw some men still holding Mr. Mitchell while I pulled Mr. Wilson out of the office to the front and left him there……”

The Second: apparently between the doorway and out doors; according to Mr. Mitchell's statement: “After examining my injury I went to the door where Wilson was and told him that I was not going to let it end this way as I would be taking strong disciplinary action against him, at this time I pointed to his face. He jumped at me and tried to encircle me with his arms. I “skipped” away remembering iris tendency to bite.

While moving away his finger caught my left shirt sleeve and spun me around. This caused me to slip in the loose sand and I fell on my back…..”

9

From the statements submitted there is no doubt that heated and boisterous arguments between both men on the matter of the correctness or otherwise of the time clock had preceded the fight or fights.

10

As a result both men sought medical attention on the day (14th May) and submitted medical certificates to the Water Commission in due course.

11

The medical report in respect of Mr. Mitchell indicated inter alia that:

“he had been examined after he had allegedly been bitten by another man during an altercation; Examination showed an approximately 2 1/2 cm. circular defect on the right cheek to the right corner of the mouth. The patient brought in with him a portion of the missing flesh. There was also a semicircular area in contusion and superficial laceration on the left forearm consistent with teeth bite.”

12

The medical report in respect of Mr. Wilson indicated that he was suffering from:

  • (1) through and through laceration of the lower lip;

  • (2) haematoma under the right eye;

  • (3) abrasion of the left cheek, traumatic conjunctivitis of the right eye; and

  • (4) swelling of the face.

13

He was recommended for 14 days sick leave.

14

Meanwhile the police had been called in and both men were charged with assault. The Water Commission at this point obtained statements from witnesses to the altercation following which by letter dated 15 th May; Mr. Wilson was advised as follows: “I hereby notify you that as a result of a fight between yourself and Water Engineer Mitchell in the distribution office on the 14 th May, 1974, you have been suspended for seven (7) days beginning on the 15 th May, 1974.”

15

The letter was signed by Mr. D. A. Budall, Distribution Engineer. It is of importance to note that Mr. Wilson was not advised of try further action against him which may have been contemplated.

16

Mr. Wilson went on his suspension for the seven (7) days (without pay) and returned to work at the expiry of the period.

17

On the 20th Septembers 1974, the Distribution Engineer advised the Principal Engineer (Water): “This is to advise that the Court issue between Mr. Maurice Mitchell and Mr. Henley Wilson has been resolved. Mr. Wilson was found guilty and fined.” It is understood that Mr. Mitchell was found not guilty on his charge.

18

On the same day Principal Engineer (water) wrote the Distribution Engineer as follows:

“As you are aware, the above incident was before the court and as such no Departmental action was taken by me pending the decision of the court on the matter, lest any action of mine proved prejudicial to the case. Having been informed that the case is now concluded, it is my decision after a review of the issue, that Mr. H. Wilson be suspended effective Monday, 23 rd instant on half pay, until he is further advised by the Personnel Department.

Please therefore, immediately inform Mr. Wilson...

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