PRESIDENT of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke has defied a warning from Public Administration Minister Marlene Mc Donald, who urged workers to disregard the union’s call to rest and reflect on Friday, saying otherwise they could be fined or jailed.
Mc Donald told public servants and those in the essential services in particular that “such irresponsible and injudicious action,” in sympathy with institutions in which they are not employed, is a breach of the IRA and they would be subject to fine and imprisonment.
Yesterday, Duke countered: “The lines have been drawn and the war is on. On Friday, every single worker, every single public servant, those who are police officers, those who are fire officers, prison officers, teachers, those who are working in the essential areas – you take the day off to rest and reflect. It is your damn right to do so whenever you please.”
He threatened to invoke Section 42 of the Industrial Relations Act to take Mc Donaldbefore the court if she interfered with the workers’ rights.
Addressing a “united labour” platform at Palms Club, San Fernando on Tuesday, alongside representatives from the Joint Trade Union Movement and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Duke said he believes Mc Donald may not have read or properly interpreted the law on time off.
“Under the Minimum Wages Act, Section 7, all workers of this country are guaranteed 14 days’ sick leave. Under Section 85 of the Civil Service Regulations Act, all public officers, police, prisons, civil servants, have a right to 14 days’ sick leave.”
The news conference was called to update the country on the planned action to show disappointment with the People’s National Movement government on its third anniversary,
Duke said there are many forms of leave a person can apply for. One day away from work does not require a sick-leave certificate, he said, and once the worker signs the prescribed form, that worker would have accounted for his or her absence.
“I want to say to Marlene Mc Donald, if you disregard the law and you want to play you are a henchman for your boss, you will have something coming at you. We will not hesitate, in the public service and in this united labour movement, to bring you before the Magistrates Court or any single permanent secretary or heads of department or anyone who is acting on behalf of the employer who believe they can jail, fine or penalise anyone for taking one day sick leave.”
He said Section 42 of the IRA has never been used before to bring a minister to court, but if she interferes, they would invoke it.
Duke, who is also president of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC), said the Constitution guarantees freedom of association and no employers should make it so onerous, difficult or prejudiced to engage in movements of the trade union.