Judge dismisses Baptiste-Primus lawsuit – 'Without merit, offensive and intolerable'

Former PSA president and former labour minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus. FILE PHOTO -
Former PSA president and former labour minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus. FILE PHOTO -

A HIGH COURT judge has dismissed the lawsuit of former Public Services Association (PSA) leader Jennifer Baptiste-Primus seeking a pension increase, saying it was without merit, offensive and intolerable.

Justice Frank Seepersad gave an oral decision on Wednesday on the former labour minister’s lawsuit against the union.

He had to determine whether Baptiste-Primus’s application was properly framed to invoke the court’s jurisdiction to revisit a consent order entered by both parties in 2011.

He said while courts should be slow to interfere with one, they had the flexibility to revisit and review it.

However, he said having entered into the agreement and benefited from increases, it was difficult to understand how Baptiste-Primus could now come to the court and say it was unworkable.

Seepersad also held there was no merit in the former PSA president’s contention that she was unable to know independently of certain calculations, since the salary of the union’s head was a matter of public record, as were the various increases in the public service.

He agreed there must be transparency in the process, but Seepersad said while Baptiste-Primus may be experiencing distress since the last increase in her pension, she was no different from employees in the public sector who are also waiting for outstanding negotiations.

He also said the way the application was framed assumed the court had certain powers it did not have, adding that to vary such a consent order as asked would be to usurp the negotiating process in the public service and the duties of the Salaries Review Commission.

He said on the basis of the agreement, Baptiste-Primus would be entitled to retroactive payments but what she had done in her application was to “abuse the processes of the court” for her own agenda.

Under the terms of the order, the PSA agreed that she should receive a monthly pension from December 2012.

It also agreed Baptiste-Primus would be entitled to a pension increase every three years, which was to be calculated as an amount equal to or at least two-thirds of the pension of the office-holder, at the time the increase was being considered, or based on the highest percentage salary increase negotiated by the union for its members during the period, whichever was greater.

In her affidavit attached to the claim, Baptiste-Primus said the last time she received an increase was in December 2015, when her pension was increased from $15,488.35 to $17,656.61.

In her lawsuit, filed last month, Baptiste-Primus, who served as labour minister between 2015 and 2020, said she was forced to take the union to court over her pension almost a year after she retired in 2009.

She claimed that in February 2019, she received a letter from former PSA president Watson Duke, who said the increase was not possible.

“It is with much disappointment that I am now constrained to approach this court again in order to compel the defendants to honour their contractual commitments under the consent order and obligations under the law,” she added.

When the case first came up for hearing before Seepersad last month, he questioned whether the consent order could be varied, as it expressly provided a process to determine whether her pension could be increased.

Senior Counsel John Heath, Sheldon Mycoo and Lionel Luckhoo represented the PSA. Merle Jennifer Dennis represented Baptiste-Primus.


"Judge dismisses Baptiste-Primus lawsuit – ‘Without merit, offensive and intolerable’"

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