THIRTEEN administrative workers who were fired from the Public Services Association (PSA) in February are back on job after the Industrial Court ruled on Monday that they must be reinstated.
The workers were dismissed after protesting health and safety concerns at the PSA’s Abercromby Street building, uncertainty over the PSA’s pension plans and unsettled salary negotiations.
In their court case, the workers said they were also fired for wearing their Bankers, Insurance and General Workers Trade Union (Bigwu) jerseys to work. The court ruled in their favour and ordered the PSA to reinstate them, pay them four months’ salary and compensation of $10,000 for damages.
Newsday contacted former PSA leadership candidate Oral Saunders, who described the ruling as “ironic” and “landmark,” given that a trade union leader — PSA president Watson Duke — was on the receiving end of the Industrial Court’s ruling.
He said it was worrying that workers could be axed by a trade unionist for wearing their trade union jerseys “in violation of the fundamental right to any trade union member.”
“It is so ironic and hypocritical as this has being perpetrated by someone who is supposed to be an upholder of the ideals of trade unionism,” Saunders said.
Saunders, who is expected to contest the leadership whenever PSA elections are announced, said Duke’s legal battles are coming at a heavy cost to both the association’s finances and its public image. “It’s us, the members of the PSA, who have to pay for Mr Duke’s actions. That is the sad reality.”
“We wish that all these court matters that Mr Duke continues to lose would come out of his salary as PSA president. Unfortunately, it’s the membership who has to pay for these poor decisions.” Newsday visited the PSA yesterday to speak with some of the 13 reinstated workers, but Bigwu spokesman Lystra Lewis said they had agreed to make a statement after Labour Day.
Saunders, who was also axed by the PSA in 2012 and reinstated by the court a year later, said despite the court’s recent ruling, the issues which led to protests, including OSH issues and outstanding wage negotiations, are yet to be dealt with.
Newsday tried to reach Duke to respond to the Industrial Court’s ruling as well as Saunders’ comments, but calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.