Judiciary workers fearful of new contract system

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 07:30

Mon­day will be a "Hol­i­day for Jus­tice" for work­ers of the Ju­di­cia­ry if Pub­lic Ser­vice As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Wat­son Duke has his way.

Armed with a bull­horn, the PSA pres­i­dent ad­dressed ju­di­cia­ry work­ers from around the coun­try who gath­ered at the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain on Tues­day.

Many of the work­ers are con­cerned they may be out of the job by Sep­tem­ber 1, when the court adopts the new court sys­tem as guid­ed by The Crim­i­nal Di­vi­sion and Dis­trict Crim­i­nal and Traf­fic Courts Bill, 2018.

"The plan is to fire them (by) Sep­tem­ber the 1st but be­fore Sep­tem­ber the 1st, un­less they re­nege we will turn this group in­to a big­ger group and we will be call­ing for na­tion­al elec­tions," vowed Duke at the Hall of Jus­tice steps.

"They have spo­ken to the PSA, they have writ­ten to us, and have told us they have tak­en the bill to the Par­lia­ment and by all means by Sep­tem­ber 1st that's the end of that. To me, it's rub­bish, it doesn't speak to democ­ra­cy that this coun­try is gov­erned by."

Un­der the amend­ment, sev­er­al jobs will be made re­dun­dant, while oth­er ju­di­cial of­fi­cers in­clud­ing clerks of the peace will be asked to reap­ply for their jobs. Sev­er­al work­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly those with years of ser­vice fear that they would lose all their ben­e­fits earned through long years of ser­vice in the process.

"In cre­at­ing all those courts they are re­mov­ing all the clerks and a num­ber of po­si­tions that now ex­ist. They are send­ing them home and they have jacked up the qual­i­fi­ca­tions so these per­sons who are there will have to reap­ply for their jobs. Along with per­sons who are out­side," said Duke, who felt that the work­ers were be­ing aban­doned by the gov­ern­ment de­spite their years of ser­vice.

"These are per­ma­nent work­ers here, some are con­tract work­ers we don't care they have served the coun­try, and they have served the coun­try well. You have nev­er seen these work­ers protest­ing, you have nev­er seen that they are al­ways do­ing their job," said Duke, "So right now what we say­ing is on Mon­day is a hol­i­day for Jus­tice! Mon­day is a Jus­tice hol­i­day in this coun­try."

How­ev­er, Pro­to­col and In­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer of the Ju­di­cia­ry Carl Fran­cis said it was sim­ply "not true" that the work­ers would be los­ing their jobs.

"We have cre­at­ed new ad­di­tion­al po­si­tions and ad­di­tion­al ju­di­cial po­si­tions are be­ing cre­at­ed. So peo­ple are not be­ing sent home. We are go­ing to be train­ing up the staff to fill these new po­si­tions," said Fran­cis.

"If these peo­ple don't want to be a part of the new arrange­ment which are crit­i­cal and nec­es­sary, they can be ab­sorbed else­where in the Ju­di­cia­ry or the pub­lic ser­vice."

Fran­cis con­firmed, how­ev­er, work­ers who were pre­vi­ous per­ma­nent staff would be shift­ed to a con­tract sys­tem, how­ev­er, he as­sured that mea­sures would be put in place to re­tain their ben­e­fits of tenure.

Reporter: Peter Christopher,