Industrial Court: PSA Duke has a case to answer
By Sasha Harrinanan Friday, August 1 2014
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DUKE HIDING: Contrary to usual times when heading a PSA protest, PSA President, Watson Duke, he is up front facing the camera, not yesterday after los...
The Industrial Court has ruled that “there is a case” to be answered by Public Services Association (PSA) President Watson Duke, Immigration officer, Purdy Babwah, and the PSA regarding contempt of court proceedings filed against them by lawyers on behalf of Labour Minister, Errol McLeod.
The three now have the option to call witnesses in their defence when the case resumes in October at the Industrial Court, St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain.
Delivering her ruling at 3.31 pm yesterday, Industrial Court President, Deborah Thomas-Felix, said “It is the ruling of this court that there is a case for Mr Duke, Ms Babwah and the PSA to answer...and it is for them to give their defence.”
The court then attempted to fix a date for the resumption of the case but with McLeod’s lead attorney, Russell Martineau SC, unavoidably absent from court at the time of the ruling, a tentative date of October 1, 2014 was set. Yesterday was the last day of the Industrial Court’s current term. It reopens on September 15, with a formal opening on September 22.
After consulting with Duke’s lead attorney, Douglas Mendes SC, Thomas-Felix ruled that the “respondents are to file witness statements on or before Friday, September 26, 2014.”
Martineau’s response to the no-case submission filed by Mendes focused on two key points. One, Duke could not argue that health and safety matters at Immigration Division offices in PoS and San Fernando were exempted from the July 3 injunction against Immigration staff.
Two, it could be mere coincidence that after Duke’s July 7 statement “this office is shut,” made while standing in front of the entrance to the PoS office, located at 67 Frederick Street, staff once again stayed away from work, citing health and safety concerns.
Regarding his first argument, Martineau told the court, “No matter Mr Duke’s views that this injunction is “Irrelevant and has no place in the employer/employee relationship where health and safety is concerned,” he (Duke) should have applied to the court for a variance, or a stay of the injunction.”
Martineau argued that Duke does indeed have a case to answer because “It was clear to Mr Duke and the country what the order of the court was about...The Friday (June 27) before he made his statement outside the Immigration Office on Frederick Street that “This office is shut,” people were at work as normal but after his statement, the situation reverted to pre-injunction state.”
That injunction was obtained by the Labour Minister on July 3, after nearly two months of Immigration staff refusing to work due to health and safety issues at the PoS and San Fernando premises. Their on-going action had left many persons without the means to travel, since they could neither renew nor apply for passports while foreigners studying or working here were unable to get extensions on their permits.