PSC to be asked to rehire teachers – PM
The Public Service Commission (PSC) is being asked to rehire persons who contested general elections and are interested in once again working in the public service, once they meet the criteria.
Speaking on WE FM’s Issue at Hand program on Sunday and also during his swearing in ceremony at Government House on Saturday, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that the PSC has independent hiring powers for teachers and civil servants.
“The government is saying to them that they can go ahead and give preference to teachers from 2010 onwards who resigned and who are not yet of retirement age and who want to return to teaching or to be placed somewhere within the state administration.
“That’s a detail that can be worked out between the Chief Personnel Office and the Ministry of Education and the Cabinet Secretary,” Gonsalves said.
In 2010, Elvis Daniel, Addison Thomas, and Kenroy Johnson had all been teachers for over 30 years when they were forced to resign in order to contest the general elections of 2010 on a New Democratic Party (NDP) ticket.
A Collective Agreement signed between the Union and the Government in 2005 contained an article, 16, which states that “a member of the Union of at least three years standing shall, on application, be granted leave-of-absence to contest national/general/local election. The leave of absence shall be no pay leave for a period not exceeding six months. In the event that the member is unsuccessful, that member shall return to his/her original post or one of the equivalent status, all benefits intact.”
However, when the teachers applied for “election leave” in 2010, they were referred to s 26 (d) of the Constitution that says that no person shall be qualified to be elected or appointed as a representative if he holds or is acting in any public office.
Therefore, the teachers resigned, and once unsuccessful at the polls in 2010, the three attempted to be reinstated, but were told that there were no vacancies.
The court came to the conclusion that article 16 of the Collective Agreement does not violate section 26(1)(d) of the constitution; there was a legitimate expectation created that they would be reinstated after contesting the elections according to the agreement, and they had been deprived of their fundamental right to property.
The 2020 General Elections saw educator Shevern Lewis-John resigning in order to contest the North Windward seat on an NDP ticket. She was unsuccessful in her bid.
Gonsalves said on Sunday that in relation to the three teachers from 2010, he has always made the point that there is a lot of misunderstanding about the case.
“The case ended up as a case about the property rights. The ruling is about the property rights of the teachers. I don’t have a problem with that; I can’t in any case. Not only can’t I have a problem in principle, but with the court’s decision.
“But the law says that if you are a public servant you have to resign. I just can’t give you leave unless the legal framework is altered and in altering it there has to be a lot of particular discussion,” the Prime Minister said while noting that it is easy conceptually, but more problematic when you begin to implement it.
“But I have no difficulty in the circumstances of carrying on the undertaking that I gave to speak to the Chairman of the Public Service Commission and say, ‘Listen you can give a preferential jump to those who resigned and got into politics and who are not yet of retirement age’…,” Gonsalves said.
He said he has specifically mentioned John, but he, as prime minister cannot hire her, but he can ask the PSC to give consideration. The Prime Minister also noted that John’s benefits will be intact, minus the days between when she resigned and was rehired.
“The public service commission may well say no, though I doubt they would if the Prime Minister makes the request.
“They will give my own request a certain weight, but that does not mean it happens automatically and the details would have to be worked out with those who manage personnel,” Gonsalves explained while adding that the same stands for other persons who contested and who are not yet of retirement age.
In relation to the teachers who took the government to court, Gonsalves said he is “amazed” that persons are saying that the government has done nothing in respect of giving them their pensions.
He said he has signed all related documents and the issue now lies in the hands of public servants.
“I know I signed the pensions for Thomas and Johnson, I signed those. I don’t know if they actually received them,” Gonsalves said.
He added also that he wants teachers, rather than taking an adversarial political posture, to go the path of an appropriate piece of legislation to give effect to the issue so it does not have to involve a prime minister.
He noted also that he is being guided by the words of the Governor General Dame Susan Dougan who called for inclusion during his swearing in ceremony on Saturday.