By Kenton X. Chance
The Public Service Union (PSU) has scored the first victory in the case in which it is suing the Public Service Commission (PSC) over what it said is unfair and lack of transparency in promotion within the Public Service.
The union is alleging that the PSC has failed to comply with the regulations that govern the promotion of public service workers and has failed to observe principles of fairness, transparency and objectivity in exercising its functions under the Public Service Regulations.
The union is also claiming that there have been unreasonable delays and inconsistencies in the promotion process and that these delays and inconsistencies are unlawful.
The union is further asking the court to order the PSU to implement an efficient, transparent and effective promotion regime in accordance with the regulations.
PSU president, Elroy Boucher told a press conference at the union’s headquarters in Kingstown on Tuesday that the union filed the lawsuit in January 2017.
The PSC, in response, filed an application asking the court to declare that it has no jurisdiction to hear the union claim.
It further contended that before instituting a claim in connection with matters arising out of the discharge of public duties, a public officer must obtain the sanction of the PSC, in accordance with Civil Service Orders.
That application was heard on May 17.
In a ruling on May 31, the court, however, declared that it has jurisdiction to hear the claim and dismissed the PSC’s application and awarded cost to the union.
Boucher said that the union’s lawsuit is accompanied by eight affidavits supporting its claims of unfairness and lack of transparency.
“There are a number of public officers who have expressed delight with what the union is doing and there are also a number of public officers who are fearful of coming forward and sharing their own experience to have their matter added to this list,” Boucher said.
He added: “Often times, I say I do not see the reason for fear but whatever it is that drives this, there is fear within public servants that even though they feel that they have been treated unfairly, yet they are reluctant to step forward.”
The union president thanked those persons who have come forward and signed affidavits “in an effort to get the Public Service [Commission] to operate according to the regulations”.
He further said, “That is extremely important. All public officers should be treated equally, should be treated fairly.”
Boucher said that the Public Service Regulations outline the principles that must be used in considering anyone for promotion, including seniority, merit, qualification, and performance.
The regulations further state that when officers are on equal footing with experience or qualification, then seniority should inform the decision, Boucher said.
“As far as we are aware, there is no seniority list.”
He said that over the years the union has had numerous complaints from public service workers regarding unfair promotions.
“Persons have felt that they have been overlooked and they could not understand the reasons why they have been overlooked. It has served to create issues within the service: low morale, conflict among public officers, especially when officers … have seen others in the ministry of department go ahead of them and when they … have made the assessment that they … have done everything that they need to do to be given a fair chance and then they would realise that, in their opinion, they were not given that fair chance.”
Boucher said that the union has written to the PSC on numerous occasions asking for the seniority list and questioning several decisions that they made regarding certain public officers.