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.