Ex-Caroni estate constable in legal battle for VSEP

A COUVA attorney is seeking constitutional relief after he claimed he was not given an opportunity to accept an enhanced voluntary separation of employment package (VSEP) offer during the closure of Caroni (1975) Ltd.

Anthony Noel Egbert, formerly Anthony Noel Hosein, has filed a constitutional claim which will come up for hearing next month before Justice Carol Gobin.

Egbert is seeking several declarations that the decision to retrench him on August 31, 2003, was unconstitutional and the company's failure to give him the opportunity to accept his VSEP offer after the April 3, 2003, deadline, because of an interlocutory injunction which was before the Industrial Court at the time, is also unlawful.

He also wants damages for what he says were infringements to his rights.

Egbert was an estate constable with the sugar manufacturer until he was retrenched. He said as part of his VSEP package, he would have been entitled to money, a housing lot, two acres of agricultural land and access to a retraining programme.

He was given a deadline to accept the offer of April 3, 2003. However, he said when he first tried to do so, he was told of a matter involving the Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union and Caroni (1975) Ltd over the VSEP offer. Egbert said because of a temporary injunction granted by the court which stopped the company from continuing with the offer, his seniors were not accepting VSEP letters.

He said he continued working but two months later, he was on duty and was injured on the job. He was given sick leave and then extended sick leave because he could not walk.

Caroni’s sugar operations officially ended in August 2003, but several units continued operating, including its police force.

Egbert said he returned to work in August, and he and other estate constables were told the Woodford Lodge station was being closed down and he had to go to Brechin Castle, Couva, to find out about his VSEP situation.

He claimed he was told he had been retrenched, but did not receive notice of it until November that year.

Egbert said as part of the settlement before the Industrial Court, it was agreed that those who had not yet accepted their VSEP offers could do so before August 15, 2003. He also said he applied for and received, the names of those who did not accept the offers on time but were allowed to do after the deadline.

Egbert said he has now decided to invoke his constitutional rights so the court can determine if his retrenchment was valid or if he suffered discrimination by inequality of treatment.

He also said he has already used up an alternative remedy open to him by filing a matter before the Equal Opportunity Commission and its tribunal. That matter was eventually withdrawn.

Egbert is representing himself.


"Ex-Caroni estate constable in legal battle for VSEP"

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