CPO appeals ruling on Special Tribunal in PSA wage negotiation dispute

Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) Dr Daryl Dindial. -
Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) Dr Daryl Dindial. -

The Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) has appealed a judge’s ruling to quash the decision of the Special Tribunal of the Industrial Court to impose a ten-year settlement in wage negotiations for the Public Services Association (PSA).

On April 20, Justice Kevin Ramcharan upheld the PSA’s arguments in its judicial review claim and quashed the tribunal’s decision on June 21, 2023, to make two awards for the periods 2014 to 2018 and 2019 to 2023.

The PSA has been at loggerheads over a four per cent pay hike offered by the government for the periods 2014 to 2016 and 2017 to 2019.

The matter was referred to the tribunal by the Finance Minister on October 17, 2022, after a breakdown in negotiations between the PSA and the CPO.

In his ruling, Ramcharan declared the tribunal’s decision unlawful, null and void. He held the decision was the result of a misconstruction of the Civil Service Act.

“It follows, therefore, that the defendant cannot make an award for any disputes which have not been referred to it and further, it certainly cannot make any award for matters which are not in dispute.”

He added, “...It could hardly be the case that it was intended that the Special Tribunal would be fixing awards, that is to say, salaries and other benefits for periods of time which the parties themselves had not had the chance to negotiate. That would be a perverse and absurd result.”

In its appeal, the CPO, which was an interested party in the judicial review proceedings before Ramcharan – the tribunal is not taking an active part in the appeal – argued the judge erred in law on several grounds.

It is the CPO’s position that the judge ignored existing law and trespassed on the law-making power of Parliament when he held the tribunal was subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court.

The CPO also complained of the judge’s rejection of its position on the number of disputes before the tribunal. The CPO maintained there were two, while the judge said it was “clear the parties were treating the negotiations for the two periods as one negotiation.

“There being one negotiation, there was one dispute.”

However, the CPO’s appeal contended it was the accepted position of both parties (the PSA and CPO) that there were two separate and distinct bargaining periods.

“The judgment of the judge is erroneous at law and/or cannot be supported having regard to the overwhelming evidence before the court and/or was unreasonable, unwarranted, disproportionate, harsh, oppressive, and/or unjustified and/or no court acting judicially and properly instructed on the relevant law could or would have arrived at such a decision as the one under appeal,” the CPO’s notice of appeal said.

The CPO is asking the Appeal Court to set aside Ramcharan’s ruling and affirm the Special Tribunal’s decision. The matter before the tribunal is on hold.

The CPO is represented by Seenath Jairam, SC, Raphael Ajodhia, Sara Muslim and Janine Joseph. The PSA is represented by Douglas Mendes, SC, Anthony Bullock and Imran Ali.


"CPO appeals ruling on Special Tribunal in PSA wage negotiation dispute"

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