The Public Service Union has gone to court over the attempts by the government to transfer Union Island resident Jamali Whyte to an unspecified post in Kingstown. (Photo: Facebook)

The Public Service Union (PSU) has persuaded the High Court to restrain the government from transferring a man from his job on that southern Grenadine island to an unspecified post in .

The hearing of the substantive matter has been slated for July 30.

The PSU’s lawyers successfully argued that transferring Jamali Whyte, a junior clerk at the Revenue Office in Union Island, to a post at the Maritime Department, in Kingstown, would have an adverse effect on his family life and finances.

In a July 5 decision, the court granted an interim injunction to restrain the respondents from transferring or re-assigning Whyte.

It has also granted Whyte’s union, the PSU, leave to apply for judicial review of the decision by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, , to transfer or re-assign him.

Potentially ‘financially embarrassing position’

Whyte said a transfer to the mainland would mean being away from his partner and son for extended periods because there is no daily ferry service between Union Island and .

He further pointed out that the cost of daily air travel (of EC$270 return) to and from work would be prohibitive and not sustainable on his monthly salary of EC$1,896.

Whyte further told the court that he spends EC$1,889 in household, medical, tax and miscellaneous expenses and that relocation would be so disruptive that no amount of money would remedy its effects on his family life.

and Shirlan Barnwell are representing the PSU.

Karen Duncan and Duane Daniel appear on behalf of the respondents, the rest of which are the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) and the Public Service Commission (PSC).

Daniel indicated that Civil Service Orders provide for the payment of a monthly hard area allowance of between EC$150 and EC$200 to officers stationed in areas designated as such.

However, the lawyer was unable to tell the court if Whyte would qualify for such allowance on being transferred or re-assigned to the mainland and made no submissions on the issue of adequacy of damages.

He acknowledged that Whyte would not be entitled to an increase in payments by virtue of such transfer or re-assignment.

In her ruling, High Court judge Justice Esco L. Henry said:

“It appears to me that whereas Mr. Whyte might find himself in a financially embarrassing position if he is transferred or re-assigned as contemplated, the PS, CPO and PSC are unlikely to apprehend such financial prejudice if the interim injunction is granted. They have not provided any testimony to contradict Mr. Whyte or to support an assertion that they would be so prejudiced.

In giving the reasons for her decision, Justice Henry said that if the PSU’s application for an interim injunction were dismissed, Whyte would have been required to report to the mainland for duty, with effect from June 28, 2018.

“He would either have to find rented accommodation, seek paid or unpaid room and board with someone on the mainland or travel to Saint Vincent from Union Island each day. He would leave his partner and son to carry on their lives without his daily involvement. Such move would undoubtedly have cost implications for him and his family,” the judge said.

Vacant post?

She further noted that if the interim injunction were granted, Whyte would continue his life on Union Island and the Government would, of necessity, need to fill the unspecified post at the Maritime Administrative Office in the Ministry of Security, Kingstown with another officer or leave it vacant until the substantive application is determined.

“It is not clear if the post is vacant or whether it was anticipated that the present serving officer would be re-assigned elsewhere before Mr. Whyte assumed duties,” the judge said.

She further reasoned: “The State is generally perceived to possess considerably more resources than the average citizen and therefore better able to absorb financial, personnel and other exogenous and endogenous shocks. This case is no exception. It appears that the balance of convenience swings in Mr. Whyte’s and the PSU’s favour; and that the status quo should remain the same, pending further order.”

Sent on

The matter arose after Whyte was verbally notified by and then formally advised by an April 25, 2018 letter from Pompey that he was to proceed on eight days’ vacation leave and thereafter report for duty at the Maritime Department, in Kingstown, with effect from May 8, 2018.

Whyte had not applied for vacation leave or a transfer and wrote to the PSC indicating that he had not been given a reason for the decision to transfer him.

The PSU wrote to the CPO requesting a meeting to address the matter and the union wrote to the PSC’s chairman regarding the decision.

However, neither Whyte nor the PSU has received any response to the letters.

Whyte complained that he did not know what considerations Pompey applied to the decision to transfer or re-assign him, adding that Pompey’s decision seemed arbitrary.

He also averred that he was not given a hearing and that he views the decision as a punishment for some wrong he has not committed.

He explained that based on the expenses associated with travel between the two islands, such a move would negatively impact him financially.

On June 6, the PSU filed an application for leave to apply for judicial review of Pompey’s decision to transfer or re-assign Whyte.

The union also applied for an interim injunction restraining Pompey, the CPO and the PSC from transferring or re-assigning Whyte from the Revenue Office Union Island to the Maritime Department or to any location on mainland St. Vincent until final determination or further order.

Pompey acted ‘unlawfully’ — union

The union is alleging that Pompey acted unlawfully and that the decision was made without assigning reasons.

The PSU claimed that the Pompey failed to take into account relevant factors and that the decision was therefore unreasonable.

Pompey, CPO, and PSC opposed the application for leave and for the interim injunction.

They contended that Whyte did not follow the procedure prescribed in the CSO for writing to them and that this default translates to a failure by him to seek redress in the established manner.

The respondents further contended that the application for leave to apply for judicial review should be denied because Whyte had not availed himself of the available remedies.

They submitted that the letter purporting to shift Whyte within the service, speaks to re-assignment and not transfer and also contended that, for this reason, the application for injunctive relief should be dismissed.

11 replies on “Court stops gov’t from transferring worker”

  1. steven collins says:

    I will always maintain that the only people we black people have power over is other black people.. think about it..so sad

    1. C. ben-David says:

      Sad… why? Would you prefer to be ruled over by white devils as we were for 300 years?

      And don’t you know that most people can’t handle self determination and need to be governed my others.

      And do you actually believe that government employees have an absolute right to determine where they work even when their managers believe they need to be transferred?

  2. Looks like Judge Esco L. Henry is another judge that has a great sense of Justice along with a few others such as Burnett and Brown.
    Thank God we have some good people in the Judiciary that love country and people to cushion the callous or un-caring decisions of the Executive Branch. Too bad they are not in a position to stoop the run-away greed of taxes, duties and fees of the executive that is stealing the life-blood of this country, keeping us backward, undeveloped and casting us deeper and deeper into poverty.
    We all hope that one day we will get Executive leadership that knows how to improve the social and financial environment in such a way that it will encourage prosperity, honor and respect rather than what we have right now—The opposite!

    1. C. ben-David says:

      You are way over the top in your interpretation of an administrative decision that happens a thousand time a day all over the world when workers are transferred from one locale to another for perfectly good reasons. Unless you can prove that this was done as some illegal and/or immoral punishment, your words represent an unfair attack on the normal operation of government.

  3. C. ben-David says:

    A wicked decision that privileges a worker’s wants over the needs of the state.

    And what is the nature of the relation between the man and his so-called partner? If it is not marriage, it is an open union based on choice and convenience in which the woman is certainly not family to him as in a legally binding marriage where the spouses are relatives-in-law.

    If it was illegal to transfer the man without sound written reasons, this is another matter.

    But satisfying the personal needs outside the workplace of an employee — unless this is part of a contract between the employee and the employer — is not the business of the court.

    In developed countries, employees are transferred all the time from one city to another or even from one country to another without any consideration for their family situation whether they work for government or the private sector.

    In a poor country like SVG, this man should count himself lucky to even have a government job.

    Again, if it can be proven that he was transferred to unfairly or unreasonably punish him for some extra-job transgression like supporting the wrong party, this is a different story altogether and should be resisted.

    If he was transferred only to meet the needs of the civil service as determined by its managers, he should accept the transfer or seek other employment in the private sector.

  4. Rawlston Pompey says:

    MAN’S GRAVEST ENEMIES

    Among ‘…Man’s Gravest Enemies’ are ‘…victimization; …docility and stupidity.’

    These have been among the causes of man’s ‘…miseries and destruction.’

    It was not necessarily because ‘…Job was docile or stupid,’ why he endured so
    much miseries, but because he had feared God.

    Some bearing the name ‘…Pompey’ appeared to have created more miseries,
    as they seek to destroy others.

    Man sometimes thinks he is ‘God,’ yet persists in doing ‘..ungodly things’ to others.

    The case of ‘…Yuggee Farrell vividly makes the point. It now begs the question,
    ‘…Who is next?’ It is ‘…Jamali Whyte v another Pompey.’

    This hapless junior Clerk may wish to direct his attorney’s attention to the classic
    case ‘…Richard Duncan v Attorney General of Grenada’ [CIV: APP: No. 13 of 1997].

    Other public servants may also wish to apprise themselves of the historic ruling
    by former ‘…OECS Chief Justice and former CCJ President, Sir Dennis Byron et al.’

  5. That person who dared to talk about wicked decision of personal needs over State … what a hypocrite… sickens me every time he/ she speaks…

    1. C. ben-David says:

      Please tell me how I am a hypocrite to argue that employers have the right to assign works duties and locales to their employees within the framework of existing labour laws. If it is illegal to transfer a government worker from Union Island to Kingstown to fill a related position, please cite the appropriate legislation prohibiting this. If you can’t do so, your small-minded comment is what is sickening.

      Does it not occur to you that this man may be afraid that his partner would butt him if he is re-assigned to Kingstown? If true, the man would just be trying to control the woman’s body, as if he owned it, which should sicken you more. Or maybe not.

  6. Concerned citizen says:

    Ben David, before wading in on one side of the issue here you need to be SURE of the facts. We do not know if this transfer is motivated by malicious or spiteful reasons, oh wait, that does not occur in St Vincent. Why is the post to be filled by this transfer “unspecified”? Is his present job redundant? .As to transfers happening all over the world, this is usually accompanied by relocation expenses together with accommodation, has this been done here? Why are you speculating about this man’s domestic circumstances? that has nothing to do with the issue and is just pure titillation. We all have a duty to be very balanced when we post comments until we are sure of the facts because it is a truism THAT ONLY A FOOL IS EVER SURE unless he or she has all the pertinent facts.

  7. Well said Concerned Citizen… need I say more except that some of us would only know what it feels like when it’s in our back yard… I wonder what Mr Ben would have done had it been his son/ daughter or his own circumstance before the Court… sure he would say he would happily transfer as he is likely SVG’s biggest patriot…I repeat I am sickened

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