'We want our money': 19 fired contract workers in limbo over payout by police service

Francis Joseph, sacked communications manager of the TTPS. -
Francis Joseph, sacked communications manager of the TTPS. -


THE DECISION to sack 19 contract workers from the police service, all hired by former commissioner of police (CoP) Gary Griffith, without full and final settlement of their wages seems to be heading to the court if left unresolved for much longer.

The group, which included several heads of department, were terminated last Monday by Deputy Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob as part of a "cost cutting" exercise.

The Ministry of Finance said the cost of contracts under Griffith's three-year tenure from 2018-2021 ballooned from from $54.1 million in 2018 to $88.8 million in 2021.

Several of the former contract workers, when contacted by Sunday Newsday, said they have not been paid off for the remainder of their contracts and intend to pursue legal action if the debt is not settled.

One of the issues to be resolved is whether the former contract workers are entitled to allowances as part of their settlement or only basic salary, according to sources.

Sunday Newsday spoke with some of the former employees, some of whom declined to named.

Among those whose contracts were terminated are Sheldon Edghill, the head of executive management services, Dwight Andrews, the strategic adviser to the CoP, Salisha Gomes-Andrews, head planning, research and project implementation, Francis Joseph, head of corporate communications and media consultant Adrian Don Mora.

Griffith has defended the hiring of the workers saying that they improved the output and efficiency of the police.

Responding to questions via WhatsApp on Friday, security expert Paul Nahous, who was hired as a firearms and training consultant, said while he was informed that he would be paid for the unexpired portion of the contract, no further clarity was given as to when this would happen.

DCP Mc Donald Jacob fired 19 contract workers hired during the tenure of former police commissioner Gary Griffith. - File photo/Sureash Cholai

"We have not been informed of the arrangements to pay us. I have made contact with them and I am willing as always to be part of any dialogue concerning this, once it is done in an honest and earnest manner.

"We are not asking for anything more (at least on my end) than what we agreed to and were informed of upon termination. Like everyone else we have financial obligations to fulfil at home, and must see about that as priority."

Contacted for comment Lisa Ghany, who was hired as the police events manager, said she was surprised and disheartened by the cuts noting that her contract was renewed in July.

She also questioned the reasoning behind terminating some of the staff for roles that would have to be filled and said she was waiting to see what arrangements were being made for payment.

"I am waiting, giving them some time. Realistically, I want to hear from them in the next two weeks.

"I have a range of talents and experience, my plan is to concentrate on the business, rejoining the work market.

"We were all professionals. I represent myself as such wherever I go.

"I don’t accept the explanation given that this was budgetary cuts because it does not make sense paying off some people and then hiring others to fill the position."

Despite the cuts, Ghany said she valued her time and experiences in the police service.

Other employees were not pleased with the lack of communication or reasoning behind their termination.

One former employee who claimed he had almost $500,000 owed to him told Sunday Newsday that he was hoping for this to paid as a lump sum as opposed to instalments.

"I don’t have a problem with what they did but how they did it.

"They haven’t worked out how we will be paid, I can't be paid in instalments. No directive has been given to the finance department on how to pay us.

"How are we to live? I should have my money to do with it as I please."

In this September 1, 2021 file photo acting police commissioner Gary Griffith addresses a media briefing, alongside events manager Lisa Ghany, at the Police Administration Building, Port of Spain. Griffith's position was declared illegal by Justice Nadia Kangaloo on October 14. Ghany was one of 19 contract workers dismissed by DCP McDonald Jacob on October 25. - File photo/Ayanna Kinsale

Another former employee, who asked not to be named, asked to be paid his outstanding salaries as a lump sum and questioned whether the exercise would save any money at all.

"How can you save money if you are paying off contracts? Where is the saving? I don’t know where that saving is coming from.

"They are suggesting that they pay us our base salaries without allowances but the CPO told them that this was wrong as the allowances were part of the package they signed on for."

The employee also questioned where the directive for the staff cuts came from.

The man said they were called into a meeting with DCP Jacob, ACP Joanne Archie and police human resource manager Angela Ramlagan and told their services were no longer required.

Contacted for comment, attorney Clyde Weatherhead, a former president of the Public Service Association, said the former contract employees were within their right to ask for additional details behind their dismissal.

He noted that unless proper reason for their termination was given the employees may be entitled to some redress.

"On the face of it, it sounds like someone got up one morning and said, 'We don’t need you, go home.'

You must have a cause for termination. If it is redundancy, then that is retrenchment and they are entitled to all the benefits that come with retrenchment.

"They can argue that they were dismissed unfairly if no cause is given. If it is not misconduct or bad behaviour then that can be considered harsh and oppressive."

Weatherhead also said those dismissed should take some legal action not only to get what was owed to them but to also avoid setting a precedent where contract employees could be terminated without just cause.

For her part chairman and managing director of consultancy Personnel Management Services Ltd Diana Mahabir-Wyatt advised that those affected look at Section 22 of the Police Service Act and the Redundancy and Beneficiary Severance Act for further guidance.

Section 22 (2) of Police Service Act says, "The Commissioner may, having regard to the qualifications, experience, skills and merit of a person who is not in the Service, appoint on contract such a person as a police officer for any specified period."

She also noted that the Ministry of Labour should have been notified if the contracts of more than five workers were terminated.

Sunday Newsday contacted permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security Gary Joseph who declined to comment on the matter.

"The TTPS has an accounting officer and he is responsible for the financial running of the TTPS."

Jacob was appointed the accounting officer by Minister of Finance in September after a court ruling stuck down his acting appointment as CoP.

Sunday Newsday also contacted Chief Personnel Officer Dr Darryl Dindial who said he was unaware of the details behind the dismissals and could not speak on it.

Jacob in a previous report defended the decision to cut staff noting it was done purely on a budgetary basis and dismissed accusations he was removing civilian staff hired by Griffith.

He maintained that no unit was severely impacted by the cuts as police operations and functions continued as normal.

"As is customary with most organisations, staffing arrangements may come under review, and where necessary, new persons may be hired to fill vacancies."

ACP Archie, who is in charge of administration, also declined to comment on the matter.


"‘We want our money’: 19 fired contract workers in limbo over payout by police service"

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