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Lawyer Jomo Thomas. (IWN file Photo)
Lawyer Jomo Thomas. (IWN file Photo)
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The lawyer whose chambers handled the case that the Teachers’ Union brought against the government over the 2005 collective agreement believes that the union can triumph at appeal.

High Court Judge Justice Brian Cottle last Wednesday ruled as “entirely hopeless” a claim by the Teachers’ Union that an article of the Collective Bargaining Agreement it signed with the Government in 2005 does not contravene Section 26(1)(d) of the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), as the Government later claimed.

“When I consider the competing arguments as well as my understanding of the governing legal principles, I am driven to the conclusion that the claimants cannot succeed. It may we be that the present constitutional provision are too restrictive and some of provisions along the lines of that set out in Article 16 of the Agreement is desirable,” Justice Brian Cottle wrote in a ruling.

The Public Service Commission has not rehired the three teachers — Elvis Daniel, Addison Thomas, and Kenroy Johnson — who retired their post in November 2010 to become candidates in the December 2010 general elections for the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).

The teachers had initially thought that the Collective Bargaining Agreement that the Ralph Gonsalves Government signed with their union allowed them leave to contest the post and to be re-hired if they lost.

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The Government, however, later said that the applicable part of the agreement, Article 16, was unconstitutional.

Jomo Thomas, whose chambers handled the case on behalf of the teachers, said in comments on Facebook on Monday: “The case is not an NDP case although it so happens to involve 3 teachers who ran on an NDP ticket.

“The case has much broader constitutional importance and I hope and trust that ULP comrades and supporters will not see it as such.

“[I]f we do, then we are telling our country either our leaders did not know the Constitution when they signed the collective bargaining agreement with the Teachers’ Union or that worst, they played a trick on the workers to win their support and then jammed them with the law,” said Thomas, who became a Senator and a candidate for the ruling Unity Labour Party, and is now Speaker of the House of Assembly.

He, however, said that Cottle’s judgement is “a good, reasoned decision but this is only a first-instant decision.

“Justice Cottle did not accept the arguments presented by the claimants, but the court of appeal might. There is still some ways to go once the Teachers’ Union decide to take it further.

“The case is of such constitutional magnitude and holds out so much for the deepening of our democracy that I will be surprised if this case ends with justice Cottle’s decision,” Thomas said.

Shirlan Barnwell, a lawyer in Thomas’ chambers, along with Grenadian attorney Ruggles Fergusson, had actual carriage of the case.

Asked for her reaction to the judgement on Monday, Barnwell told iWitness News:

“I have not been able to meet and discuss the issue yet with the Teachers’ Union. And until such time, I can’t make a comment on it. We are supposed to meet sometime this week.”

Barnwell has since become a senator for the NDP.

7 replies on “Jomo urges ULP not to celebrate ruling in ‘NDP teachers’ case”

  1. Jomo is just grandstanding. These teachers were fools to be represented by a firm whose head is a senior member of the ruling party; Jomo should have counselled them to get a different legal team. It would be hard to imagine a more egregious example of conflict of interest.

    1. Patrick Ferrari says:

      C. ben, I agree, agree and agree. Then disagree most strenuously that it would be hard to imagine a more egregious example of conflict of interest. Glen Beache’s case has that title – his was textbook.

      Beache’s egregious example of conflict of interest was compounded by the egregious error of judgement when Twisty came to the defense of Twirly.

      This is how the Prime Minister defended Beache’s conflict – laughably, a case of conflict of interest in itself. “The most you can say, well it raised a presumption of a conflict of interest, but when you get to know the facts, the
      presumption is rebutted!” Then rebut, Mr Prime Minister. We are waiting.

      Rebutted my ass. What a twisted immoral mind: unless the Prime Minister has his own facts, it is the real facts that made it a conflict of interest and the very reason – naturally – why the Twisty did not present the real facts – or his facts. He would have undone his defense with either – straight.

      These are the facts: Glen Beache, while in public office had set up his own private company. That set up a set of circumstances that created a conflict between serving his primary interest, his public office, and serving his secondary interest, financial gain. The second would unduly influence the first. (If that is the order that Beache and the Prime Minister had it.)

      Rebut that, Twisty.

      Corruption can come from a conflict of interest. But a conflict of interest does not have to wait on corruption; it can be established BEFORE corruption occurs.

      I would not be surprised if Glen Beache got advanced legal advice on how to get around the problem. Like; disband the company – which he hurriedly did – and keep the relationship with the Trinidadians secret – which I do not know that he did. For all I know, he may have disbanded that too. That is what makes it a secret.

  2. I hope the union takes the case to the higher court. Jomo views are right and it now appears that he’s seeing justice for all Vincentians as paramount. How ironic he was the lawyer handling many vindictive cases against the government. If he’s honest, then Ralph is pissing in his shoes.

    1. Skeck they will only be throwing good money away, the constitution is all powerful that is why the agreement is designed as it was, no Judge anywhere can change that.

      Jomo should have used his influence on Gonsalves and insisted man to man that the contract be honored. Jomo holds the ace card with Gonsalves because Gonsalves is terrified of him. But I suppose there was no money to earn from the Union by taking that route.

  3. No Jomo, this case is DOA in the appeal courts.

    Their argument should have been centered solely around the fact that the psc VIOLATED the rights of the teachers by not granting them leave. But the resignation of the teachers really complicated matters and make such argument unsustainable.

    But Jomo raised a good point, why did the government agree to this provision in the collective bargaining agreement, knowing that they had no real intention to uphold the agreement. Was it just sheer unadulterated political expediency on the part of the government to sign the agreement?

    Now, can the teachers sue the government for breech of the collective bargaining agreement and thereby violating their rights to association… Mm…I don’t know. These teachers are akin to a rape victim who trusted their friend and went into the room alone. The victim knows he or she was raped but they can’t prove it in a court of law, cause the perpetrator used rubbers-no DNA. The PSC royally screwed the teachers using the Constitution as rubbers. The teachers went willingly down the dark alley, knowing that there was a written agreement, of no hanky panky.

    Anita, don’t go down the dark alley with Peter…

    1. This government does not deal with its citizens in good faith. Why anyone would foolishly believe that this government acts honourably is beyond me. You would think that in a supposedly democratic country that it would hold itself to higher standards , but no, not this labour loves you government. It’s time people stopped being so naive.

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