The first ever Adjudicator for Vanuatu has been appointed and he is Clifton Rau from Pentecost, whose role is to oversee matters before the Employment Tribunal.
Congratulating Mr. Rau on his appointment, Commissioner of Labour said this marked a milestone, as there has never been an Adjudicator for the Employment Tribunal, since Vanuatu gained its Independence 41 years ago. Trade Dispute Tribunal replaces the Arbitration Board, which saw the establishment of the Employment Tribunal.
The Employment Tribunal will be dealing with employment issues in the country, which also includes employment disputes involving workers in both the private and public sector.
Commissioner of Labour, Murielle Meltenoven confirmed that Rau is well versed with the roles and responsibilities under this body. She admitted that a lot of employees, especially those who are working in the private sector, have been facing difficulties in accessing the services of the court of law due to court costs. The establishment of this body will enable the employees achieve justice from their work places. “This avenue is affordable to our workers, therefore, they are encouraged to register with the Tribunal,” Meltenoven said.
She added, “When all processes under the Trade Dispute Act are exhausted, and if they cannot be completed within seven days as provided by the law, the cases will be referred to the Employment Tribunal.”
His appointment was made following an accountable and transparent process.
According to Meltenoven, the Employment Tribunal will be an independent body. The Department of Labour normally acts as the mediator in disputes that arose between the employer and employee.
“An adjudicator’s role is similar to that of a Judge of the court of law. Its decision on any employment case is usually final.”
With the establishment of this institution, a lot of employment cases that are pending before the court of law will be relieved. The Employment can also resolve these cases within a timeframe in accordance to its act.
The Commissioner acknowledged the Judicial Service Commission, and its members for fast tracking and facilitating this appointment.
The adjudicator will assume his office as soon as possible and one of his first tasks is to draft the regulations of how the tribunal will operate.
A budget of Vt11 million has been approved for this important institution. For its long term goals, an adjudicator will also be appointed and based in Santo.
The newly appointed Adjudicator joined the Labour Commissioner to thank DPM Kalsakau and Director General Cherol Ala for adhering to the grievances of the workers and make it possible to establish this tribunal. The DPM, being the Member of Parliament for Port Vila Constituency, which accommodates majority of workers is being vocal in pushing forward the set up of this body.
“Way forward, this tribunal is still in an infant stage. We need to put in place regulations to approve how the tribunal will be operated, before tribunal preside over pending cases,” Mr. Rau stressed.
He said they will also look into the recruitment of staff and create the office structure. There is also the need to increase budget to operate the institution. He agreed that in the future, the services of this institution be decentralised to go in line with the government’s decentralisation policy.
Meltenoven reiterated that these services will be decentralised to places where business activities are active, to allow workers to express their plights.
“It is also possible for this Tribunal to deal with employment issues of seasonal workers, should they have issues with their agents or the Vanuatu government.”
Mr. Rau is an experienced lawyer who has occupied various positions in the government and private sector prior to his appointment.
The Act has been passed in Parliament with its funding appropriated through the Council of Ministers to support the Department of Labour and its tripartite partners.
The adjudicator is to hold office for a period of 5 years and is eligible for re-appointment only once.