According to a release, Rionda Godet and Co. made history in The Bahamas by becoming the first law firm to submit the case Dania Metellus vs Island Hotel Company Limited, to the Tribunal electronically at 5:01 p.m., on Monday, August 12.
“This is a historic day for the Industrial Tribunal as well as for courts in The Bahamas. Individuals requesting services from the Tribunal now have a much more convenient way to do so using our new Folio e-Filing portal,” said Indira Francis, President of the Tribunal.
The Bahamas Chief Justice, Brian Moree, last week announced that he will be targeting the total digital transformation of the Bahamian court system through a multi-year “e-services” roll-out designed to “catch up with where the rest of the world is”.
“The Tribunal is pleased to take the first steps in support of the vision of the Chief Justice,” says Francis.
“The new Folio e-File portal we implemented is a fulfillment of one of the strategic objectives for the Tribunal set in 2015. The new service creates a more secure and efficient way to submit and manage case documents at the Tribunal, saving requestors from having to deliver paperwork to the Tribunal in person or by postal mail. The system also saves the Tribunal and litigants time and costs associated with traveling, in some cases from as far as the Family Island, to deliver and process paper documents.”
According to Francis, taxpayers will also benefit as the Tribunal operational costs and environmental impact will be dramatically reduced. The Tribunal expects to see an immediate and substantial reduction in courier charges, photocopying, print, travel, and service costs.
In the last year, the Tribunal received over 200 filings, representing more than 100,000 pages that would have been eligible to be filed via the new Folio e-filing portal.
“This historic achievement is revolutionary and directly benefits all workers in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas,” said Robert Farquharson, Chairman of the National Tripartite Council.
The Council, established in 2015, is made up of two representatives from the National Congress of Trade Unions and one from the Trade Union Congress, three representatives from the Employer’s Confederation in the Chamber of Commerce and three representatives from the Government.
“The statutory function of the Tripartite Council is to work with its social partners to encourage and maintain social cooperation to improve matters affecting the Labour and Industrial Relations sector in The Bahamas. The Tribunal should be applauded for taking this innovative approach,” Farquharson added.
The elimination of paper filings and the introduction of the e-filing system benefits all social partners, including employees and employers, in The Bahamas, facilitating the easy and quick filing of cases online by lawyers and litigants, allowing them to upload documents using a simple three-step process, using a secure login from any computer or mobile device with an Internet connection.
The Folio e-Filing system was implemented for the Tribunal in record time by APEX, a Caribbean-based non-profit technology agency established by the Caribbean Court of Justice in 2017 to support the modernization of courts in the Caribbean.
“We were able to implement the solution in under a month. This was due to the fact that the Tribunal was in a state of readiness for computerisation and had recently completed its case backlog elimination exercise. However, we were also well assisted by our dedicated staff and by the team from APEX,” said Francis.
“We were extremely impressed with the quality of the technology as well as the level of service provided by APEX. The team understood our local requirements and also brought a wider regional and international perspective to our implementation,” said Francis.
“With the Folio e-filing system, The Bahamas Industrial Tribunal can provide faster, more efficient and cost-effective service. Lawyers can use the new e-filing platform to submit case documents and keep track of already filed documents,” said Bevil Wooding, Executive Director of APEX.
“Judges and registry staff also have secure access to filed documents at the Tribunal, as well as on their mobile phones and tablets.”
Wooding explained that the Folio e-filing online portal is also being used by the Caribbean Court of Justice and the Jamaica Legal Council and is currently being deployed by courts in Barbados.
Francis shared that the Tribunal intends to collaborate with the Office of the Attorney General, Bahamas to continue upgrading and enhancing the capacity of the Tribunal.
“The Tribunal can now offer stakeholders the promise of a more efficient, more transparent, more cost-effective service. We plan to continue our partnership with APEX to roll out additional features including mobile-based notifications to litigants; same-day transcripts; technology integration with the Ministry of Labour and Court of Appeal; as well as other digital services,” said Francis.
The Folio e-filing platform is currently available to law firms and companies filing documents with the Bahamas Industrial Tribunal. It is an important first step in the long journey to modernising how justice is accessed and delivered in The Bahamas. The development also bodes well for the delivery of justice to all employers and employees across the Caribbean.
In 2016, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) established APEX as a not-for-profit agency to deliver capacity building and technology-based solutions to improve justice delivery for Caribbean courts, law offices and related agencies.
APEX seeks to address the peculiar needs of Caribbean Courts and to advance the development of the region’s judicial ecosystem through its Curia Court Management System. Its governing body comprises Chief Justices, Attorneys General, Bar Association heads and lawyers drawn from across the Caribbean.