Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 20th 2017 Contents A10 news
guardian.co.tt Saturday, May 20, 2017
Judge dismisses lawsuit over wages
A High Court judge has ruled that
Sugar Industry Labour Welfare
Committee workers who refused to
work over health and safety issues
were ill-advised by the Public Ser-
vices Association (PSA) and have
to face the consequences.
In dismissing a claim brought by
33 workers for their employers to pay
them for the period they engaged in
the action, Justice Margaret Moham-
med ordered them to pay their employ-
er's costs and counterclaim.
The workers refused to work be-
tween June 24 and September 1, 2014,
claiming that working conditions at
their Couva workplace were unsafe and
unhealthy. At the time of the action,
the worker's representatives, the PSA,
had instigated similar action at other
government offices on similar grounds.
During their work stoppage the
workers went to the workplace, signed
OSHA 15 in the attendance register
and left the premises. They were not
paid their wages.
The company argued that the work-
ers were only entitled to be paid for
work they had performed, and coun-
terclaimed for wages paid in respect to
the days when the workers did not work.
In a 64-page judgment, Mohammed
said: "While Section 15 of the OSHA
Act provides a statutory exception to
the common law right that no employee
is entitled to be paid for failing to work,
there are strict requirements for invok-
ing this right to safeguard the abusive
and reckless invocation of this provi-
sion by employees."
She said Parliament had deemed
those circumstances to be where an
inspector has found that the work
condition are likely to endanger the
employees or work cannot be carried
out without risk of bodily injury.
"In this instant claim it appeared to
me that the claimants were ill advised
by their representing union, the PSA,
to invoke Section 15 of the OSH Act.
In particular in circumstances where
it was not warranted and where some
of the claimants knew that they could
substantiate the allegations.
"The claimant' actions were hasty
since it was clear that the claimants
engaged in the work stoppage under the
guise of actual health and safety con-
cerns when admittedly they knew that
such action was all part of the PSA's
action in a wider public service to close
down government offices at the time.
"The claimants having chosen to fol-
low the guidance of their union must
now bear the consequences of such
Justice Mohammed granted the relief
sought in the company's counterclaim.
The costs are to be assessed by the court
in default of agreement.
Sugar Welfare workers
ill-advised by PSA
There is a recommendation
for the country's five regional
health authorities (RHAs) be
abolished, or for the sector to
operate under one RHA.
In addition, members of the
public are being asked to share
their views on whether doctors in
private practice should be employed
in the public sector. However, there
was a strong view from the Dr Win-
ston Welch committee that private
practice for state employed doctors
The two issues were discussed
at length when Health Minister
Terrence Deyalsingh hosted a na-
tional consultation on healthcare at
the St Augustine Secondary School
on Thursday evening.
The consultation was the first of
three that dealt with recommen-
dations of the Welch Committee
established in November 2015 to
review the healthcare system. Two
reports containing 28 recommenda-
tions were submitted by the com-
mittee last year.
Deyalsingh wants the public to
say if RHAs are delivering on their
mandate and whether doctors at
private hospitals should be allowed
to serve in the public sector.
"Should we reduce the number
of RHAs or abolish it entirely? But
what did the Welch report say? They
are of the view that the ship has
sailed too far to turn back now. We
want to hear what is your opinion,"
the minister said.
Deyalsingh said the RHAs, which
were established in 1994, are "like
children, and left on their own, will
get into trouble. Without a super-
visory role played by the ministry
you will have different RHAs doing
The report stated that for decades
senior medical officers employed in
the public service had been granted
the privilege of conducting private
medical practice to supplement
their incomes with an admission
that the State could not afford to
pay adequate salaries.
"It could have been envisage
that the public sector employment
would play a secondary role for
some doctors in this arrangement.
Over the years, however, there have
been many expressed concerns in
the public arena and from the em-
ployer as well that many doctors
have not been true to their obliga-
tion," the report said.
There were complaints that many
doctors spend most of their work-
ing time in private practice and
were hardly available at their place
In addition, some doctors are ac-
tively engaged directly or indirectly
in soliciting patients for their private
practice, while some have become
medical entrepreneurs with busi-
nesses in competition with the State
"In wrestling with the discomfort
created by some errant doctors, ex-
hortations have been made by the
employer over the years and certain
compromise arrangements, like
reduced hours of work, have been
utilised in the expectation that com-
pliance would resolve the difficulty,
unfortunately not," the report said.
Recommendations from the con-
sultation will be compiled and sub-
mitted to a Joint Select Committee
which will then make recommen-
dations to Cabinet.
Christian Brooks, second from left, poses with his father and vice
president of the Law Association, attorney Gerry Brooks, left,
grandfather, retired Justice Clebert Brooks SC and uncle, attorney Ian
Brooks outside the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, following being
admitted to practice law, yesterday. PHOTO: KERWIN PIERRE
Call for RHAs to be abolished
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