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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves addresses the ULP rally in Arnos Vale on Sunday, March 26, 2023.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves addresses the ULP rally in Arnos Vale on Sunday, March 26, 2023.
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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, on Sunday, yet again, urged public sector workers dismissed under his government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate to re-apply for employment, days after his attorney general told the court that reinstating the workers will result in two people holding some posts.

Hundreds of public sector workers lost their jobs in December 2021 as a result of the Gonsalves government’s vaccine mandate which said that workers must take a jab or lose their job if they fail to secure a religious or medical exemption.

The workers, sponsored by their unions, sued the government and the High Court ruled that the mandate was unconstitutional and that the workers never ceased to be employed.

However, the government is appealing the decision and has asked the court to stay the order that the workers returned to their job.

This is despite the fact that the government has been urging the affected workers to re-apply since the middle of last year.  

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Gonsalves said that of the nation’s 2,300 teachers, about 130 of them did not take the jab.

“But I want them to know that I love them and I value them,” Gonsalves told a rally at Arnos Vale, on Sunday, to celebrate his Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) 22nd anniversary in office.

“And as we appeal the judgment of one judge, and as we ask for a stay of execution of that judgment, while the appeal progresses, I want all of them to indicate that they are interested in coming back.

“… We want them to come back. We will make the arrangements and you will not lose any of your benefits. We said that since July last year, even before July last year, don’t be stubborn, don’t allow anybody to mislead you, you can come back, while the appeal still goes on.”

There were 271 named claimants in the lawsuit brought against the government.

The court has ruled that the workers are entitled to all salaries and benefits that they would have received had it not been for the government’s action. Further, the government has to pay the workers damages to deter similar in the future.

Gonsalves told the rally that over 50 teachers who did not initially take the vaccine have returned to work since the mandate came into effect.

The government has been allowing unvaccinated workers to hold jobs in the public service.

“And there are others who are interested in coming back. But some don’t want to come back for reasons of theology. Some don’t want to come back for reasons of politics.”

He said some of the workers are employed elsewhere and are hoping that the Court of Appeal upholds the judgement “so they will double dip.

“And some of them genuinely feel they have a principle at stake. But I’m reaching out in love and unity to all of them. And I want them to know the position of the government,” Gonsalves said.

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Attorney General Grenville Williams at his swearing in ceremony in Kingstown on Nov. 4, 2022. (Photo: API/Facebook)

The prime minister’s comments came three days after lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, an opposition politician, read an affidavit by Attorney General Grenville Williams in support of the government’s application for a stay of execution of the court order.

In the affidavit, Williams said, “I’m advised by the Chief Personnel Officer, and verily believed the same to be true, that a number of the posts held by the claimants have been filled to satisfy the needs of the Public Service.”

Bacchus-Baptiste noted that in saying this, Williams did not tell the court that the prime minister has been urging workers to re-apply and they will get back their jobs with all benefits intact.

Williams further said:

“I’m advised by the Director General and verily believed the same to be true that posts would have to be released before they could be filled. Where there are no vacancies for the office, these offices would have to be created by way of special warrants.  This would first have to be done to facilitate the payment of unbudgeted salaries for the claimants for the month of March.”

The government has said that it will cost EC$808,000 to pay the workers their salaries for March 2023 alone.

Kay BAcchus Baptiste 2
Lawyer and opposition politician Kay Bacchus-Baptiste speaking at the NDP rally in Kingstown on March 23, 2023.

“Of course, again, he doesn’t disclose the fact that the government could find money to pay them if they had come and re-apply back for their job,” Bacchus-Baptiste further said of the attorney general.

“And that is fatal. Because in order to get to stay, you have to be frank, you have to make full disclosure…”

Williams further said in his affidavit, “To cover the costs associated with the salaries payable for the various posts, where two persons would now ostensibly occupy a single post following the order, supplemental funds would be required, which would cause financial strain on the state …”

But Bacchus-Baptiste said that maybe Williams thinks the judges of the Court of Appeal are “stupid”.

She said that in applying for a stay of execution, “You have to say that it will cause absolute collapse and ruin; the government will be ruined…

“They have not said that. They cannot say that. And this statement is not true that two persons will now be occupying a single post,” Bacchus-Baptiste said.

2 replies on “PM urges dismissed workers to reapply; AG tells court posts filled  ”

  1. Take warning says:

    Reapply fo wat? did they send in ah resignation letter? Ar yo think ar yo bigger than the law and constitution of the land? Why America, New Zealand and other countries did not have any appeal? it it because they know it was unconstitutional evil to force any medicine on anyone against their wishes which is one of their basic fundamental right.

  2. I do hope no one reapply for their jobs, these people Must go back to work and continue as if nothing ever happens, plus each of them must take this man to court for compensation, not from the government but personally from him the P M

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