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Legal route

Dispute between BIDC and NUPW ends up in court

The dubiously settled dispute between the state-owned Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) and the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has ended up in the law courts after all, with the corporation being sued for damages and costs.

One week after the BIDC and the NUPW agreed during a sub-committee meeting of the Social Partnership that the impasse would not be referred to the court, the corporation and seven of the ten workers who were “forcibly” retired have filed separate actions in the High Court in the past 24 hours.

Yesterday, attorney for the seven, Gregory Nicholls, lodged an action for judicial review of the BIDC’s decision to retire officers over age 60.

“I have also applied for an injunction to restrain the BIDC from acting on the said decision to retire the officers, and this application for the injunction comes on for hearing before the duty judge next week Tuesday at 9.30 a.m.,” Nicholls told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.

The notice of application for the interim injunction – a copy of which has been obtained by this paper – is requesting that the court issue an order restraining the BIDC from enforcing the retirement of the employees with effect from 30 September, 2015, or otherwise, until the conclusion of the substantive proceedings for judicial review or further order of the court.

The court document, which names Attorney-General Adriel Brathwaite as second defendant, also wants the presiding judge to rule that the “retirees” be allowed to continue in their jobs until the court makes a determination.

The seven claimants have outlined six grounds on which their case is based.

One ground alleges that the process which resulted in the decision to compulsorily retire them from the BIDC was unlawful, in that the statutory board exercised its discretion unreasonably in breach of the policy of an Act of Parliament, “and in a manner which has dashed the legitimate expectations of the claimants.”

The claimants are also contending that, having regard to their retirement becoming effective 30 September, they were likely to suffer adversely in the interim, unless the interim injunction relief is granted by the court.

They are also submitting that BIDC was unlikely to suffer any loss or prejudice in the event that the injunction remedy is ordered.

“The purported retirement of the claimants from the Public Service is not a necessary requirement for the proper and efficient conduct of the business of the First Defendant (BIDC),” declared the final ground.

With respect to the application for judicial review, which is the substantive matter, the seven workers have also named the Attorney General as the second defendant.   They want a review of the corporation’s decision and/or administrative action, and/or its omission to compulsorily retire them.

The claimants argue that the statutory board had not given them any, or any satisfactory reason, why its directors opted to “forcibly” retire them before they had reached the age of compulsory retirement as prescribed under the provisions of the amended Statutory Boards (Pensions) Act, Cap.384 of the Laws of Barbados.

The application lists five grounds of judicial review.  That the decision to compulsorily retire the staffers was contrary to law; unreasonable; irregular; an improper exercise of discretion and in conflict with the policy of Acts of Parliament.

In this regard, the affected workers will be seeking relief from the High Court in the form of financial damages and costs occasioned by this action.

Alternatively, they want the court to quash the decision of the board of directors and to declare their decision to compulsorily retire them and to calculate or purport to process and calculate the gratuity and pensions due as unlawful, null, void and of no legal effect.

Today, the BIDC lodged a related application seeking the court’s opinion of the legality of the board’s decision to retire the 10 workers.

Chief Executive Officer Sonja Trotman confirmed that the application was filed. “We will await the decision of the court,” she said. “We couldn’t really say what will happen at the end of it, but we would hope that it would provide clear direction,” Trotman added.

She acknowledged that once the filing was done it might not necessarily be the end of the impasse, but quickly pointed out that “the court would determine the next action, actually”.

The BIDC’s decision to retire the officers resulted in protest action by the NUPW, with support from the Barbados Workers Union (BWU). The protest was on the verge of escalation into a national shutdown when a meeting of the sub-committee of the Social Partnership, held under the chairmanship of Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer last Tuesday, produced a settlement that led to a suspension of the protest.

The unions said they came away from that meeting with an understanding that the corporation had withdrawn the letters of retirement, had reinstated the workers and had abandoned an earlier decision to have the court interpret the contentious aspect of the law under which the BIDC had retired them.

However, both BIDC chairman Benson Straker and Minister Byer challenged the unions’ interpretation of their offer to end the dispute, noting that it was not correct to say the letters had been withdrawn, only that the board had decided “not to act” on them, but to meet soon again to try to resolve the impasse.

Since that time, the Private Sector Association of Barbados has written the Minister asking for a re-convening of the Social Partnership to clarify the misunderstanding regarding the perceived settlement.

Source: (EJ/MM)

5 Responses to Legal route

  1. harry turnover July 22, 2015 at 7:44 am

    Exactly what I have been saying from day one…LET THE COURTS DECIDE.
    I won’t be surprised,however, if the Courts decide that if this trend is to be continued that the retirement age would have to be adjusted to 60 for everybody ( NIS included ) and that early NIS pension would be a thing of the past OR let the retirement age be the NIS pension age for every man jack and the early retirement (NIS) remain as it is.

  2. carson c cadogan July 22, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Govt. needs to bring to Parliament Legislation to deal with two very vexing worker strategies being employed by workers in this country Barbados. These strategies are retarding the growth of the country and are impeding competitiveness both in the Public and Private sector.

    (a) Sickouts

    (b) Go slows

    Legislation need to be put on our statute books with the purpose of breaking the back of these insidious practices.

    Let me deal with the last one first. In the case of “Go slows” the Public sector or Private sector employer ought to be given the right , as employers to reduce the pay of all staff members who go on “Go slows” the workers reduce the productivity of the enterprise whether Govt. or Private sector often times by half a day’s work. Since this action is always sanctioned by whatever Union then the Union who instituted the “Go Slow” must be made to foot half of the wages and Salaries bill since it is unfair to Employers both Public and Private to pay for Union Industrial actions. Therefore the workers should only be paid for a half day’s work by their Lawful Employers. This now can not be done because of existing Labour Legislation. This MUST be changed to give employers the option to reduce pay to half a day wages or Salaries as necessary to counter this devilish practice.

    “Sickouts” also need to be dealt with. New modern Legislation also is needed to deal with this disgusting practice. If more than three(3) workers of any establishment whether Govt. or Private sector report sick for any given shift, then the workers must produce a Doctor’s certificate verifying that they were indeed sick and not playing the fool as they do now. Failure to produce a Doctor’s certificate, then the employer is under no obligation to pay the workers for the day. If on future occasions within a given Calendar year, more than three(3) workers report sick for any given shift then all the workers who fail to turn up for work should be Terminated. This will safeguard both small and Large enterprises from stupid industrial practices.

  3. jrsmith July 22, 2015 at 11:51 am

    @,Carson C C, hail, you want new legislation, to control the workers, fine and the people of Barbados, needs one piece of constitutional, political change , to be able to remove from office any politician, who are deem to be failures.

    At present we have a government with , rude , obnoxious disrespectful and very arrogant politicians,who, is treating the people of Barbados like second class citizens ,its about time, bajans wake up, group up let they voices be heard, we are paying for failure, from a government who , try this or that hoping something will work.

    Us bajans have no trust or faith in this bad managing government, who seems to place every issue they don’t agree with on a war footing, and always ready to throw they toys out of the pram. we need our country back, politicians have failed us.

  4. Walter Prescod July 22, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Jrsmith you hit the nail on its head.

  5. carson c cadogan July 22, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    Interesting story. “…………Continuing his journey to Thebes, Oedipus encountered a Sphinx, who would stop all travelers to Thebes and ask them a riddle. If the travelers were unable to answer her correctly, they would be killed and eaten; if they were successful, they would be free to continue on their journey. The riddle was: “What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?”. Oedipus answered: “Man: as an infant, he crawls on all fours; as an adult, he walks on two legs and; in old age, he uses a ‘walking’ stick”. Oedipus was the first to answer the riddle correctly and, having heard Oedipus’ answer, the Sphinx allowed him to carry on forward.”

    We must ask at what stage is the President of the NUPW at? Is he crawling on all fours, is he walking on two legs or is he using a walking stick?

    Judging from recent events in the country, I would say that he crawls on all fours. His actions to date have been very infantile.


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