The court has dismissed the application by the Government to strike out a case relating to the three teachers not rehired after the December 2010 general elections, and has also levied cost of $2,500 against the applicants.
Lawyer for the Teachers’ Union, Jomo Thomas, who is also a government senator, told I-witness News on Monday that the ruling is “an important preliminary victory for the claimants”.
High Court judge, Justice Gertel Thom, delivered a summary of the judgement on Monday.
A date for the preliminary hearing in the substantive matter is yet to be announced.
The three teachers, Elvis Daniel, Addison “Bash” Thomas, and Kenroy Johnson, were not rehired after they contested the elections for the New Democratic Party.
They, along with Elvis Charles, who ran for the ruling Unity Labour Party, resigned their jobs ahead of the polls.
Charles, who was also defeated at the polls, was appointed a Government senator and has since been hired as manager of the state-owned Housing and Land Development Corporation.
After the elections, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves described as “aspirational” a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement his Government signed with the Teachers Union in 2005.
The Union is arguing that the Agreement permits any teacher who has been a member for more than two years to seek six months leave to contest national elections and, if they lose, to be return to their teaching post by the beginning of the following term, with all their benefits intact.
The Government has said that the clause is aspirational and contravenes Section 6 of the Constitution, which says that public employees cannot contest elections.
The Government, through their lawyer, Richard Williams, has further argued that because the teachers resigned their posts, they are not entitled to the benefits, even if the agreement is found to be constitutional.
The lawyers maintain that the teachers were forced to resign because the Public Service Commission did not give them leave even as Nomination Day approached.
The respondents asked the court to throw out the case.
“But after arguments, the court has found that the respondents have a case to answer,” Thomas told I-Witness News.
Asked how confident he is that his firm can convince the court, Thomas said, “In the final analysis, it is the court that will decide the constitutional question.
“When we brought the claim, we were pretty confident that the claim was sound and that the claimants would prevail. We don’t think it is a simple case; we think it a very important case, and, one way or the other, it would help to resolve a very important constitutional point.
“But, nonetheless, we are quite confident that the court is going to see our side of the argument,” he further told I-Witness News.
Shirlan Barnwell, and Ruggles Fergusson, president of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Bar Association, also appeared for the claimants.
The case is very very strong. I understand Jomo is being cautious and whatever else but this case is very strong and very clear as indeed the Agreement DOES NOT violate the Constitution. To the contrary the relevant clause/s in the Constitution allows for precisely such an Agreement through a parliamentary fiat. It is precisely because of this that the Government full with lawyers conceptualised the Agreement in the first place. The post-hoc conveniently revisionist ‘Aspirational’ characterization is wholly unfortunate. We cannot and must not get lower than this.
Why did they have to petition the courts in the first place? Should they not have gotten their positions in return? If not, a teaching position, am sure there could have been something for them to do in the government, similar to Mr. Elvis Charles. Is it because they are from the opposing party that they were not offered alternative government positions? or were they given an opportunity to do so? #inquiringmind
This kind of disgraceful matter is even more reason not to invest in SVG under a ULP government.
With respect, I have not read the written ruling of the Court but I think the learned Judge missed a very crucial point: The teachers were asking the Public Service Commissioner to grant them leave to contest the election which he could not under the Constitution so grant. The Constitution is the supreme law and NOTHING supersedes it. A Collective Bargaining Agreement cannot trump a Constitutional provision – it would be a clear case of the tail wagging the dog.
Essentially, the Teachers were misled, tricked, fooled, whatever you wish to call it into an agreement that was void or voidable or simply ultra vires to the Constitution. If appealed, I see not difficulty in the Appeal Court reversing the ruling of the High Court and dismissing the Claimants Claim.
I was totally against all previous governments that tried to block citizens of SVG, no matter where they were employed, from contesting any election. Persons should be allowed to resign or step down from a job to contest any election on the island. Thats why many students (including Ralph) went abroad and study law, so they can avoid this archaic law. Its only fair to allow the citizen the opportunity to have contestants from several backgrounds running to represent them.
I hope the next government will remove this stumbling block to allow respectful, reliable and honest persons to run for parliament. People should be able to return to their jobs, if they were not elected to parliament. Let the people select who they want to represent them. I hate this one man rule that has stifled democracy in many Caribbean islands.
This is why I believe a leader and a deputy leader should be selected at a convention. This will indicate to the leader; there is someone to take over if he/she screws up. It will also help to keep a leader from selecting yes men/women who he/she can control, even when he/she is making bad judgments. I would also like to see the opposition put people in place to represent a shadow cabinet. These people can start looking at how some ministries are functioning now, and start planning to enhance the operations of that ministry. It also removes the shit talk about choosing the best leader. What is needed is the best team with a good leader. People have been putting the cart before the horse for far too long. The old system should be changed to allow good, progressive and honest government.
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