Answer ... Depending on the nature of their claim, employees may raise complaints with various competent authorities. For instance, complaints regarding unlawful deductions from wages or fines imposed on employees may be raised with the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. Complaints regarding harassment and discrimination may be raised with the commissioner for the promotion of equality.
The Industrial Tribunal is competent to hear claims of unfair dismissal, discrimination, harassment and victimisation, as defined in Chapter 452 of the Laws of Malta. It generally hears disputes in public, although it has discretion to hear them behind closed doors. The parties must initially provide statements of case; they are then given the opportunity to support their cases with evidence and oral or written pleadings.
Different rules may apply to public service employees.
Answer ... In terms of law, the Industrial Tribunal is free to regulate its own procedures, but it is expected to observe the rules of natural justice and to decide on the substantive merits of the case. It enjoys powers which are granted to the courts in terms of Maltese procedural law, primarily in respect of summoning witnesses. In practice, proceedings are often very similar to standard adversarial court proceedings – albeit that, as a formality, the tribunal will always ask whether the parties have sought to resolve the matter amicably before commencing the proceedings.
The law provides that the tribunal must decide any issue referred to it within one month of the date of referral, unless in the opinion of the chairperson a longer period is necessary for a valid reason, which must be stated and registered in the proceedings of the tribunal.
Unfortunately, the reality is that no matters are decided within one month of referral; typically, notification of the proceedings and the timeframe given to the defendant to response alone will typically take one to three months. Another month or so will then lapse before the first sitting takes place. As a result, tribunal cases can last for between one and five years or more. If an appeal is filed with the Court of Appeal, another year at minimum can be added to this.
As these timeframes are not favourable for either of the parties, it is often sensible to seek an amiable compromise between the parties. The government of Malta is currently assessing the viability of the Industrial Tribunal and considering proposals put forward by the Malta Employment Lawyers Association for an overhaul of the procedural laws regulating the tribunal. These proposals include a proposition to allow the parties to raise claims in private and confidential arbitration in lieu of the exclusive jurisdiction of the tribunal.