By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Court of Appeal found there is “no arguable case” against the Minister of Labour as it dismissed a challenge to his treatment of the hotel union and industry employers’ association as properly-registered trade unions.
In doing so, the appellate court rejected a Judicial Review bid by Dave Beckford, a former hotel union leadership contender, and other industry workers that sought to challenge the Government’s recognition of the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) and the Bahamas Hotel and Restaurant Employers Association as “validly existing unions”.
Mr Beckford and his five fellow appellants had originally seen their Judicial Review bid dismissed by Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder, and they fared no better at the next level with all three appeal judges affirming his ruling.
Mr Beckford yesterday declined to comment when contacted by Tribune Business, explaining that he had yet to see the latest judgment or consult his attorneys, Keod Smith and Derek Ryan.
He added, though, that the Judicial Review bid had been motivated by their concerns over the hotel union’s financial “accountability”, suggesting it was not fulfilling its obligations to provide the Department of Labour with reports on issues such as the status of its pension and health and welfare funds.
The Court of Appeal noted that Mr Beckford and his colleagues had initiated legal action against trustees of the two funds “on the basis of the same allegations” in their currently-failed Judicial Review action.
Mr Beckford, though, told Tribune Business that he was sticking to his view that neither the hotel union nor the employers’ association was properly registered, arguing that the Industrial Relations (Validation of Trade Unions) Act 2014 had not cured the problem.
This, however, was exactly what the Court of Appeal rejected.
Justice Neville Adderley said Mr Beckford and his colleagues had based their Judicial Review case on the contention that “neither the BHCAWU or the BHEA was in existence on 1 September, 2014, when the decision on the application for leave to commence Judicial Review proceedings was given”.
The former union leadership contender’s group argued that both the hotel union and employers’ association had failed to comply with the transitional provisions for the continued recognition of all trade unions after the Industrial Relations Act 1970 came into force.
The Industrial Relations (Validation of Trade Unions) Act 2014 was passed to cure lingering recognition issues that had lasted three decades, and which employers had begun to use to challenge the existence of certain trade unions and their ability to act as employee bargaining agents.
Still, Justice Adderley said of the case brought by Mr Beckford against the Minister of Labour and Registrar of Trade Unions: “One of the declarations sought was that the recognition granted by the Minister to the BHCAWU on 21 February, 2012, was ultra vires in that the Minister could not entertain or grant a determination of recognition in favour of a union that had not been lawfully continued under the transitional provisions of the Industrial Relations Act.
“They contend that the judge’s conclusion was wrong because the BHCAWU was not in existence prior to the coming into force of the Industrial Relations Act, and only those unions fell within the ambit of the Validation Act.
“They argue that the unions which were in existence and registered as trade unions on 1 December, 1958, under the immediately preceding Act, Trade Union and Conciliation Act 1958, had different names, namely the Bahamas Hotel and Catering Union and the Bahamas Hotel Employers Association, not the BHCAWU or the BHEA.”
Justice Adderley backed the Supreme Court, finding it had “applied the correct principles to the facts” and acknowledged that there were other legal avenues that Mr Beckford and his colleagues should have explored before filing for Judicial Review.
He was backed by Appeal Court president, Justice Anita Allen, who found that there was “no arguable case” against either the Minister or Registrar of Trade Unions since the 2014 had eliminated the validity/recognition issues at the centre of the action.