e-bulletin No. 100 - March 2020
Week 1 of telephone conciliations, arbitrations and mediations
In e-Bulletins 97 to 99, I announced changes to the Commission’s operations in response to the escalating situation with the coronavirus pandemic. Since the start of this week, all staff have been working remotely (from home) and all listings (conciliations/arbitrations and mediations) have been conducted by telephone. The Commission also suspended in-person medical assessments to ensure the health and wellbeing of workers, doctors and staff. We hope to reach a position on the management of medical disputes within the coming days where a number can be recommenced safely.
The significant changes and our response to the evolving situation has only been possible because of the great team at the Commission and our progressive use of technology. Our staff have done a fantastic job to transition the entire Commission list to telephone while not missing a beat with business as usual tasks. My sincere thanks also to the valuable contributions of our arbitrator, mediator and approved medical specialist cohorts. We have had some technical glitches with our telephone service provider but on the whole things have run smoothly and we are confident these problems, mainly due to the sudden increase in traffic, will be ironed out for next week.
This week, the Commission successfully conducted 144 listings, namely, 73 initial teleconferences, 39 con/arbs and 32 mediations. A fantastic outcome.
I wish to express my appreciation to those who participated in telephone con/arbs and mediations this week, in particular arbitrators, mediators and lawyers, for their professionalism and patience in this new process. The feedback I have received has been extremely positive and encouraging. I also wish to also express my sincere thanks to SIRA, icare, WIRO, Bar Association, Law Society and members of our User Group, who have all made tremendous contributions in what have been rapidly changing circumstances.
For those who haven’t already, I implore you to read the Commission protocol for participating in telephone con/arbs and mediations. The protocol is an evolving document, which will be periodically updated as we receive feedback and as things change.
I stress to lawyers the importance of thorough preparation for telephone con/arbs and mediations including:
- Early notification to the Commission of the names and contact numbers of attendees for their party;
- Insurers actual attendance at the telephone event;
- Properly instructing counsel;
- Consulting with clients and holding client conferences well in advance of the listing event; and
- Parties discussing the case with each other prior to the telephone event to narrow issues and give the best opportunity to resolve the dispute.
Together we will get through this. My best wishes to you, your colleagues and your families for their health and safety through this challenging period.
Judge Gerard Phillips