Published on 12/03/2020
On 24 February 2020, Wynn Williams hosted former Employment Court Chief Judge Graeme Colgan who delivered an insightful presentation on employment arbitrations: mapping a course in abandoned and unchartered waters.  
 
With the wisdom of experience and many years on the bench, the former Chief Judge provided his reflections and refractions.  He reminded the audience that employment dispute arbitrations had fallen out of favour following the introduction of the Employment Contracts Act 1990 and state-provided free mediation services.  However, with the increase in the number of litigants, costs, delay, and the complexity of some disputes which leads to longer hearings and delays, employment dispute arbitration has some real attraction for suitable cases. 

More importantly, the thorny question of which system (on balance) should be preferred was discussed.  And the discussion is not prosaic.  Arbitration has the obvious qualities of privacy and confidentiality of outcome, particularly where issues such as brand and reputation are a focus for the parties.  There are of course advantages and disadvantages with any system and arbitration is not suitable for every case.  For example, collective bargaining for a collective agreement is not arbitrable, but the resolution of collective disputes (including rights and obligations under a collective agreement) is amenable to resolution by arbitration.  However, where costs (and who should pay those costs) is an issue, then the free state-provided system has appeal.  

A further (and interesting) observation to come out of the presentation was the consequence of employment law practitioners not utilising arbitration to resolve employment disputes for a very long time and a perceived lack (or withering) of skill mix than previously.   
 
The impact and sharpening of focus on employment dispute arbitration is an invitation or call-to-action to think beyond the current perennial problem solving methodology.  

We thank former Chief Judge Colgan for his very impressive piece of analysis and presentation – we were all enriched as a result.  
 
 



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