“It was always the intention of the THA to pay outstanding gratuities and, as a consequence, the teachers will receive the monies due and owing to them.”
This is the promise made by Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary and Secretary for Education, Innovation and Energy, Kelvin Charles, as he responded to questions posed by Newsday after last Friday’s High Court ruling by Justice David Harris. The judge ordered the THA to immediately pay contract teachers all outstanding payments, plus interest.
The Tobago teachers, represented by Martin George and Company, won a constitutional motion which they filed in 2017 against the THA for their rights to all gratuity payments and money owed to them. The teachers claimed for a declaration of inequality of treatment. They said the THA had treated them unequally, as compared to the permanent teachers in Tobago, and also unequally as compared to contract teachers in Trinidad, by paying them less and not allowing them the same number of leave and benefits.
On Monday the teachers hosted a press conference with their attorney and claimed victory against the THA.
But citing the contract teachers failure in court to be made permanent, Charles also claimed a win in court and said the THA will not be appealing.
“The teachers lost the case in substance because the learned judge found that they were not similarly circumstanced to the service commission teachers. The honourable judge was not persuaded that the teachers were ignorant of the fact that they were employees of the THA and those particular terms and conditions that they enjoyed,” he said.
"The honourable judge also found that the THA is not responsible for administering and controlling the teachers’ individual applications through the service commission. The teachers were unsuccessful in their claims made before the courts to the effect that the THA should treat them the same as service commission teachers.
“The THA contract teachers are not similarly circumstanced and are not comparators with the service commission’s permanent teachers or even contract teachers in Trinidad. The court found that the teachers did not put sufficient evidence before it to establish the connection between the service commission and the THA contract.”
Further questioned about the call by Martin George for his resignation as Education Secretary, Charles declined comment.