Lawyers for the public sector unions in the vaccine mandate case will ask the Chief Justice to appoint a three-member panel to review the decision of acting Justice of Appeal Paul Webster to grant a stay of execution of the High Court’s decision until an appeal is heard.
Lawyer Jomo Thomas told iWitness News that while the court is unlikely to revoke the stay, his legal team is taking this route in the hope that the court would vary the order and have the appeal heard soonest.
Lawyer Jomo Thomas told iWitness News that while the court is unlikely to grant the application, his legal team is taking this route in the hope of having the court vary the order and the appeal heard soonest.
Thomas told iWitness News, on Wednesday, that the legal team met after Justice Webster’s decision last week and considered whether the chief justice should be asked to have a panel review the decision.
“Based on our experience watching the court, as court watchers, it is highly unlikely, we believe, that a full court may reverse one of its judges on the issue of the stay,” Thomas said.
“What is of critical importance to us, however, is if the court refuses, which it may well do, to revoke the stay as ordered by Justice Webster, that it would vary the order having to do with the stay and in so doing setup, clear guidelines as to how the appeal will be prosecuted,” he further told iWitness News.
Thomas said his team believes that “very short and strict, almost immutable guidelines should be established.
“Because we’re prepared to argue this case, we are convinced in the strength of the case, the arguments which we made before Justice Henry, and we are fortified by Justice Henry’s decision,” he said.
High Court judge Justice Esso Henry ruled on March 13 that the public sector workers dismissed under the government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which came into effect in December 2021, never ceased to hold their jobs.
She ordered the government to pay them all wages and benefits they would have received had it not been for the government’s decision to terminate them.
The judge further ordered that the government pay punitive damages.
The government appealed the decision and applied for a stay of execution of the order, which acting Justice Webster granted last week.
“So, what we don’t want is for the workers to be strung out for much longer. So, for example, if the court were to come back and give strict guidelines that give them (the government) one month to do their submission, give us one month within which to reply and to set a date for the hearing, we will be grateful, because we know we can meet that,” the lawyer told iWitness News.
Thomas said that the legal team has advised the unions, which have accepted the advice.
“But we are going into it with our eyes wide open, as we were when [they] made the application for the stay that it is highly improbable that the court would revoke the order of Justice Paul Webster, but critically important for us is to have them vary that order.”
He said his team is prepared to argue the case in any of the jurisdiction in which the Court of Appeal sits.
“We don’t have to wait for the court to come back to St. Vincent. It’s an itinerant court. It travels across the OECS. So, we are prepared to meet in any of those jurisdictions to argue this case. So that’s the long and short of it. And that’s what we first told the union leaders and that’s what I explained to the claimants yesterday when we met at Prep School,” he said.
In his decision, Justice Webster said that on reading the papers submitted in support and against the stay of execution, the court was satisfied that the government has reasonable prospects of success on appeal, that there is cogent evidence that the appeal will be rendered nugatory unless a stay is granted, and that the appeal concerns matters of public importance.