Ministry ordered to reinstate bank worker’s complaint

The Min­istry of Labour has been or­dered to re­in­state an in­dus­tri­al re­la­tions com­plaint of a for­mer bank work­er, which was dis­missed be­cause his union used the wrong let­ter­head on it.


De­liv­er­ing a judg­ment at the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain, yes­ter­day, High Court judge Frank Seep­er­sad made the or­der as he up­held a ju­di­cial re­view claim brought by Sanc­tu­ary Work­ers’ Union and its mem­ber Mi­toon­lal Per­sad against the min­istry.

Ac­cord­ing to the ev­i­dence in the case, Per­sad and the union first re­port­ed his wrong­ful dis­missal dis­pute with his for­mer em­ploy­er to the min­istry, last year.

How­ev­er, the dis­pute was record­ed on the union’s let­ter­head which was en­dorsed with the name “Sanc­tu­ary Trade Union” as op­posed to its reg­is­tered name of “Sanc­tu­ary Work­ers’ Union”. The union is head­ed by for­mer gov­ern­ment min­is­ter and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist De­vant Ma­haraj.

The dis­pute was ini­tial­ly con­sid­ered and the min­istry’s per­ma­nent sec­re­tary is­sued a Cer­tifi­cate of Un­re­solved Dis­pute, which was need­ed to have Per­sad’s claim against his for­mer em­ploy­er list­ed in the In­dus­tri­al Court. The cer­tifi­cate was even­tu­al­ly re­scind­ed due to the er­ror in the let­ter­head.

Seep­er­sad, in his 29-page judge­ment, de­clared that the min­istry and its of­fi­cials act­ed ir­ra­tional­ly and un­rea­son­ably in tak­ing the de­ci­sion as it had al­so been served with doc­u­ments with the cor­rect in­for­ma­tion be­fore it grant­ed the cer­tifi­cate and re­voked it.

Seep­er­sad al­so set a new le­gal prece­dent as he ex­tend­ed the scope of ju­di­cial re­view law­suits to in­clude an as­sess­ment of the pro­por­tion­al­i­ty of a de­ci­sion of a pub­lic au­thor­i­ty, in cir­cum­stances where it (the de­ci­sion) af­fects a cit­i­zen’s fun­da­men­tal con­sti­tu­tion­al rights.

“The court must guard against pub­lic au­thor­i­ty de­ci­sions which are p[pred­i­cat­ed up­on over tech­ni­cal and rigid po­si­tions es­pe­cial­ly where the said de­ci­sion im­pacts or in­fringes up­on a cit­i­zen’s fun­da­men­tal rights,” Seep­er­sad said.

“This court is there­fore res­olute in its view that Per­sad ought not to be de­nied a pro­ce­dure for re­dress which is pre­scribed by law, be­cause of an er­ror in the form of the re­port which was made to the Min­istry and in cir­cum­stances where that er­ror oc­ca­sioned no un­cer­tain­ty as to the dis­put­ing par­ties and re­sult­ed in no hard­ship, detri­ment or prej­u­dice up­on the de­fen­dant,” Seep­er­sad added.

As part of the judg­ment, Seep­er­sad gave pub­lic bod­ies and of­fi­cials ad­vice on how to han­dle sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions in the fu­ture.

“The de­ci­sion-mak­er should ul­ti­mate­ly adopt a cau­tious and con­sid­ered ap­proach and should com­pre­hen­sive­ly and com­plete­ly weigh all the rel­e­vant fac­tors as well as the pos­si­ble con­se­quences which the de­ci­sion may oc­ca­sion be­fore the de­ci­sion is made.

The de­ci­sion must be fair and must re­late to a clear­ly de­fined ob­jec­tive,” Seep­er­sad said.

He al­so crit­i­cised the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary for fail­ing to give ev­i­dence in the over the ground for his de­ci­sion.

“The court was left with a feel­ing of dis­qui­et, as it was not fur­nished with a prop­er ex­pla­na­tion nor was it told of the ma­te­r­i­al fac­tors which were con­sid­ered by the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary when he au­thored the rescis­sion let­ter,” Seep­er­sad said.

Per­sad and the union were rep­re­sent­ed by Jagdeo Singh, Di­nesh Ram­bal­ly, Kiel Tak­lals­ingh and Rhea Khan.

Reporter: Derek Achong

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