THE COURT of Appeal has stayed the orders of the Industrial Court in a trade dispute between the TT Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) and the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA).
The NCRHA had appealed the refusal by the appeal court chamber judge to grant a stay of the Industrial Court’s orders in favour of a nurse on a temporary, six-month contract.
Among the orders the Industrial Court made on July 29, 2022, the NCRHA challenged two.
Those concerned the directive to the authority to design and execute a plan, with participation from and approval of the Ministries of Health and Finance, to grant permanent employment to all workers in temporary continued employment. The plan was also to establish and monitor deliverables with the intention of making all outstanding permanent appointments urgently.
The NCRHA was also expected to ensure that in future, all workers on temporary continued employment, who are eligible for permanent employment, were made permanent within two years, or make arrangements to pay them a retroactive pension, gratuity or an ex-gratia payment.
In its appeal, the NCRHA said the appeal court chamber judge erred in failing to grant the stay; in finding that its appeal had no good prospect of success; and that the Industrial Court orders required participation by two ministries which were not party to the dispute.
The authority’s attorneys, Farai Hove Maisasai, Issa Jones and Antonya Pierre, also argued that the judge failed to consider that it did not have the financial resources, in particular $25 million, to confirm all eligible temporary workers as permanent workers.
In their ruling on Friday, Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke- Soo Hon, Vasheist Kokaram and Malcolm Holdip ordered the stay of execution.
Kokaram, who delivered the ruling, said there was a “good arguable appeal” which contained matters that deserved further investigation, in particular whether the Industrial Court exceeded its remit in finding that the worker’s contract was permanent and whether it can make orders against third parties who are not part of a dispute before it, as well as making an order for the payment of gratuity.
However, Kokaram made it clear the court was not ruling on the merits of the NCRHA’s appeal, and its ruling was a preliminary one.
In the trade dispute before the Industrial Court, the nurse complained that the six-month contract she was given after three previous one-year contracts was unfair.
Apart from the orders that were appealed, the NCRHA had to recalculate the payments owed to the nurse and offer her permanent employment.
The NCRHA has paid the nurse what was owed to her, but is challenging the policy aspect of the Industrial Court’s order, since, it says, there is a real risk of its financial ruin as it does not have the budget to meet the expenses outlined in the other orders.
Representing the TTRNA at the appeal was attorney Martin George.