Dare to know labour law in Latin

The Industrial Relations Act says the Industrial Court must
The Industrial Relations Act says the Industrial Court must "act in accordane with equity." - FILE PHOTO/ROGER JACOB

Back in the day, as your grandmother used to say, when secondary school curricula included Latin as a mandatory subject, the mumbled response among its victims was: “First it killed the Romans, now it’s killing me,” with the exception of those students privileged to be taught by a genuine teacher (and alas they are so rare) at QRC, who taught Latin as a secret language that his eager students could use to communicate with each other in the presence of uncomprehending parents, teachers and other bastions of authority.

There are very few occasions in my life when I have wished I had been born male instead of female. One was when I learned about the legacy this man (and may God forgive me for forgetting his name) left to his students, who could, years later, greet each other in a foreign airport or on Frederick Street with, “
Salve, amicus” and be immediately understood and accepted as a QRC fellow alumnus.

It was a secret society, making the members feel they had a superior intelligence…giving them the self-confidence to go on to brilliance in their chosen careers, or just to develop unusually brilliant minds that they kept to themselves

They are still with us, and they know who they are.

The curricula of schools in Trinidad now have eliminated Latin, just as we students back in the day thought it was useless and wished it would be removed forever.

If you are involved in industrial relations, however, male or female, I am now made aware of the importance of basic knowledge of Latin.

I was wrong then, as I so often am. Latin, as a language, is not dead as I predicted. As time, in the relentless
tempus fugit way it has, sped by, I learned that Rome is still very much with us.

The Colosseum still stands, and if you do not have the privilege of having been taught it, it might be a good idea to keep a Latin/English dictionary close by, as Industrial Court awards are now being sprinkled liberally with Latin words, often misinterpreted.

Omnia praesumuntur rite esse acta, from award in GSD TD No 340/2017, for example, does not mean that you are automatically going to win the case, but it is close, as it claims you have done everything that should have been done in accordance with the law (and do not lie about it, as the maxim of equity is that “he who comes into equity must come with clean hands, and if you get found out, the backlash will be severe).

Do not forget section10(3)(b) of the Industrial Relations Act says the Industrial Court must “act in accordance with equity.”

Just in case you have misplaced your Latin/English dictionary, the word “equity” comes from the Latin word
aequitas, which meant then, as it still does, “justice, uprightness, evenness, uniformity, fair play and impartiality.”

Then there is the award in IRO No 8 of 2021, an important award that, as negotiations continue between the PSA and the rest of the Public Service will be referred to often, as it involves the payment of funds, it involves not only the
mens rea but also the
actus reus.

This does not mean, as one bush lawyer thought, the difference between “real” men and people only acting like men. “There are a lot of them around,” she said.

It means, in taking action, both the intention and what is actually done must be taken into consideration in deciding the legality or whether it falls within the ambit of “good industrial relations practice.”

The honourable members of the Industrial Court, therefore, will be looking at the
acta, non verba in a statement of a witness, within an
a priori context.

Notable in recent years, the number of law graduates from Sir Hugh Wooding Law School each year greatly outnumbers the number of paid positions in the law industry available in TT to absorb them.

Despite the wise admonitions of our society, unlike those in other jurisdictions, most people have not appreciated that in today’s litigious world, every professional, be they in medicine, catering, engineering or social work, could probably profit by following up their first degree with a degree in law.

Not only to discern when the words
caveat emptor must be implemented, however, but to understand the distinction between reality and the “alternative facts” promulgated on social media and grapevine gossip that travel faster than truth does.

Those who have moved on into positions in the field of industrial relations learn that there is a marked different approach between civil-law practices and procedures and those in industrial relations; which is why the Industrial Relations Act, in Section 9, says this court may act without regard to technicalities and legal form, and, although Section 51 (1) states that a dispute may only be reported to the minister of labour by a trade union or an employer, section 9(2) (2) of the same act makes it quite clear that a party may be “assisted by counsel or solicitor.” This has confused a number of practitioners.

Interpretation of conflicting or apparent conflicts in the law itself, or in the meaning of terms in a collective agreement or of a contract of employment, I am informed, can be followed up under section 54 of the IRA, and is sometimes included under the request for a writ of certiorari – a phrase which requires one party or the other to be more fully informed, especially when they did not get the opportunity to study either Latin or law, and can be directed by the phrase
sapere aude, which translates into: “dare to know.”


"Dare to know labour law in Latin"

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