I REFER to the letter “System needs fine tuning” (The Star, Dec 29).
The writer’s suggestion that the correct remedy is “to strengthen the recruitment and training process to improve the standard and efficiency of IR officers rather than appoint a separate panel” to decide on whether or not a dismissal case should be referred to the Industrial Court sounds good on paper. Unfortunately, this is a long-term and not an immediate solution.
When a case goes before the IR officer for conciliation, the “settlement” proposed by the officer (and you can ask anyone who has attended such meetings in the past) is invariably the question of how much the employer is prepared to pay, regardless of the merits of the case.
In some cases the employer is told that if he does not agree to settle, the case will be referred to court and he might be liable not only for his legal costs but also for compensation and backwages.
More often than not, if the employer does not agree to settle on a matter of principle, the recommendation of the officer is for the case to be referred to the court.
The report then gets sent to the Director-General of Industrial Relations (DGIR).
If the DGIR is given the power, as suggested by the writer to decide on whether or not the case should be referred to the court, he is unlikely to disagree with the recommendation of his officer.
The view of Peter Raiappan in his letter “Time to review SOP” (The Star,Dec 24) that an independent panel decide on the question of whether or not a case merits reference to the court is not as illogical as the writer seems to think.
Another misconception of the writer is his belief that when the “majority of cases referred to the Industrial Court results in the claimants getting reinstatement with arrears of wages or compensation in lieu of reinstatement”... “the employer is victorious”.
In such cases, obviously, it is the workman and not the employer who is victorious.
I think the main point that needs to be emphasised is that when a workman is dismissed, even if it is for a valid reason, there is nothing to stop him from filing a complaint that he was dismissed without just cause as no cost is involved as far as the workman is concerned.
In view of this, there is merit in Raiappan’s suggestion that where a case is rejected by the independent panel on the grounds that the employer has acted fairly, the workman should be permitted to apply for the case to be referred to the court by paying a fee.
See also System needs fine tuning Saturday, December 29, 2012
S. DARSHAN Petaling Jaya The STAR Online Opinion Monday December 31, 2012