Newly-installed Chief Executive Officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Gabriel Faria, must be wondering his bad luck so soon into the post.
After successful stints at the Guardian Newspaper and Carib, Faria took up the job at the Chamber which has now run into hot water with the Industrial Court for comments made two weeks ago.
The Chamber of Industry and Commerce, its chief executive officer, a prominent businessman and a lawyer were on Thursday issued subpoenas by the Industrial Court to answer a criminal charge of contempt of court.
The subpoenas were delivered by a bailiff around midday to businessman Frank Mouttet, attorney Derek Ali, Chamber CEO Gabriel Faria and the Chamber itself.
The four have been summoned to appear before President of the Industrial Court, Deborah Thomas-Felix next Tuesday.
The Industrial Court is a superior court of record. This is the first time in its 51-year history that it has taken such action.
If found guilty of contempt, those charged could purge the contempt by throwing themselves at the mercy of the Court.
Alternatively, they could be sent to prison until the Court determines that their contempt has been purged.
In June, a news release from the Industrial Court cautioned critics that “boundaries between criticism and seeking to influence outcomes must not be blurred” and that efforts “to impugn its impartiality or diminish the importance of its role and function will not be countenanced.”
The contempt charges emanated from comments made by the Court at a Chamber of Commerce panel discussion, “The Impact of Industrial Court Judgments on your Business”, on November 30 at the Chamber’s Westmoorings headquarters.
The media reported that at that event Mouttet blamed the Court for low productivity in the country and advised hotel chain Sandals not to bring its proposed resort here because “you can’t fire anybody”.
He was reported as saying that employees were “lining up to be fired” but was worried about wrongful dismissal rulings by the Industrial Court. He was also reported as saying that the Court had made retrenchment into a business with employees “lining up to be fired” in order to receive compensation and that trade union were “receiving a cut of payments”.
According to news reports, Mouttet described the Court as harsh and oppressive in its judgments against employers while favoring workers and their unions.
He also suggested that the Court’s judges must have been brought up in Siberia under Josef Stalin and that there was no tripartite but only “monopartite”.
The National Trade Union Centre issued a statement challenging Mouttet for his statements while head of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) Ancel Roget demanded a retraction.
Mouttet was reported as saying that he would not retract a comma far less a word.
Last Thursday JTUM led a small, silent protest outside the Chamber’s Westmoorings headquarters at which he called on President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to defend it against attacks by Mouttet.
Also at the Chamber’s November panel discussion, lawyer Derek Ali was reported as proposing that the business sector should lobby for pro-business judges on the Industrial Court bench to balance what he described as an anti-business bias among judges.
Ali risks being debarred if found guilty of the criminal offense of contempt of court.
Faria and Mouttet confirmed receipt of the writs from the Industrial Court. Both said they did not wish to comment further on the matter.