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PSC has been refusing to comply with court order says Public Service Union

PSC has been refusing to comply with court order says Public Service Union
Lawyer for the Public Service Union Shirlan Barnwell (left) with President of the Public Service Union Elroy Boucher at a press conference earlier this week.

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by Katherine Renton

The Public Service Union(PSU) is talking to their lawyers following what they believe is a refusal of the Public Service Commission (PSC) to comply following last year’s court ruling on fairness of promotions.

Additionally, in recent times, over 10 persons have come forward to the Union alleging that they have been overlooked for promotions.

The President of the PSU, Elroy Boucher, accompanied by one of the PSU’s lawyers, Shirlan ‘Zita’ Barnwell, spoke on these issues at a press conference held at their Headquarters on Tuesday.

The President said that, since the judgment was handed down by Justice Esco Henry on December 19, 2018, the Union has been “monitoring” the “activities and behaviour” of the PSC.

The court had ruled last year that the Commission had failed to comply with the regulations in respect of the promotion of five public servants, namely: Agnes Llewellyn, Kejo Peters, Joel Poyer, Conroy Daniel and Elroy Boucher. The court further declared that the PSC failed to observe principles of fairness, transparency and objectivity, as required under regulations 19, for the promotion of the five.

Therefore, the court had required that the PSC establish and implement, immediately, and maintain, “transparent and effective performance appraisal and promotion regime within the public service (including a robust and functional monitoring and corrective mechanisms) in accordance with the stipulations in Regulations 18, 19, 20 and 27of the Public Service Regulations”.

Regulations 18 deals with the advertisement of vacancies, 20 with the maintaining of an up to date Seniority List, and 27 makes provisions for permanent secretaries and heads of departments to submit yearly confidential reports on officers within respective ministries.

Boucher revealed on Tuesday, “We have been looking at the promotions that are being made, we have been looking at whether those vacancies that have been filled, were being advertised. We have been looking at whether they have followed the judgment, the order of the court, in implementing the comprehensive performance appraisal system.”

With regard to the aspect of the judgment asking for the implementation of a comprehensive performance appraisal system, the President said that the PSU has written to the PSC to ask to be a part of “whatever committee is set up to give effect to that aspect of the judgment.”

However, he said that they got no response.

“We asked about the Seniority List which the court spoke of, which is mandatory that they must have the Seniority List, because for positions of routine work, seniority carries weight,” he continued, adding, “We got no response.”

The PSU’s lawyer has indicated that the issue with the Seniority List, when the matter came before the court, was that the PSC couldn’t produce one.

Boucher says that they also wrote on complaints by persons about what they observe going on around them in their Ministries, but that got no response.

“For me it becomes painful, when you see members of the Union who are faced with these problems and they come to the Union for a solution and we feel like our back is against the wall because we have gone to court, we have gotten a judgment in our favour, but it appears that everything continues as usual,” he commented in a strained voice.

He spoke about an incident that the Union was told of that occurred in the Ministry of Health, wherein a senior executive officer was acting as an assistant secretary. This person said that she stayed acting as an assistant secretary for more than two years while she saw persons being appointed as assistant in other Ministries.

“And right in her very Ministry someone was moved from senior executive officer and promoted to assistant secretary in another Ministry while she remained acting for more than two years,” Boucher indicated.

This apparently took a toll on her, and she applied for early retirement.

He said it pains his heart to see what is happening to the public service, and that he believes the service fails under Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves who is Minister responsible for public service.

“We had no choice, we had to go back to our lawyers, and this time our lawyers, Jomo Thomas and Zita Barnwell, and we have asked them to do everything that can be done legally to force the Commission to comply with the Judgment and to find some justice for all of these workers,” Boucher explained.

Barnwell has indicated that the legal team wrote to the Chairman of the PSC, Cecil ‘Blazer’ Williams on August 16, but he left the state on August 14, and was said not have received the letter. Nonetheless, after a call was placed to him, he has shown willingness to meet with the Union and the lawyers after he returns next week.

These discussions will be on the declarations granted by the court, “and having seen, as Boucher says, that there have been certain promotions being done since then(the court ruling) that, when they considered their own qualifications, years of service, their own merit, that they deserved a promotion.”

She said that the court case took two years and persons rights are involved. The compliance with the court order should have been done forthwith, Barnwell stated. “Now if we are almost one year later, and public officers are seeing certain things being done that are not transparent and that are not fair, then we have to look to the Public Service Commission to ask them to do something here, otherwise the Union will be forced to seek further redress in the court.”

Soon after the court ruling in December 2018 an appeal was filed on January 31, 2019. The Prime Minister listed the grounds of the appeal which were five in total. All grounds allege that the learned judge erred or misdirected herself in certain findings.

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