PSA wants Watson Duke's pension payment order set aside

PDP political leader Watson Duke. - File photo
PDP political leader Watson Duke. - File photo

THE Public Services Association (PSA) has applied to have set aside a judge’s order to pay its ex-president Watson Duke a $25,000-a-month pension until his lawsuit against the union goes to court.

The application was filed on July 8. Justice Marissa Robertson is presiding over Duke’s lawsuit and has allowed him to respond to the affidavit and will hear the application on July 16.

Justice Frank Seepersad granted the interim injunction on June 28.

Duke sought the injunction as he claimed he was facing bankruptcy and had no other source of income, as he was now retired, so he was looking towards his pension benefit.

In early June, Duke filed a lawsuit against the PSA over his pension. He was the PSA’s president from November 2009 to December 2021.

In its application, the PSA contends because of Duke’s admitted position on his financial status, the union faced a higher risk of injustice if, after the matter goes to trial, the ex-president is unsuccessful.

“He is, therefore, unlikely to be able to repay the monies paid to him under the order should the substantive matter be determined in favour of the defendant.” The setting-aside application also said Duke was paid $203,850 as gratuity from the PSA in error and will be demanding repayment.

It also alleged “material non-disclosure” on Duke’s part as he failed to disclose he receives a salary as an assemblyman in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), despite his claim he had “no other source of income.”

“The claimant is an assemblyman with the Tobago House of Assembly and receives an income and benefits from that office,” the application said.

It also contends Duke chose to maintain his pensionable rights at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) – his substantive employer before he was elected on the PSA's executive – and during his tenure at the PSA, he was paid 25 per cent of his salary from the authority which represented the employer’s contribution to his WASA pension plan.

The PSA’s application said Duke opted to collect these sums – $521,695.32 from November 27, 2009, to November 30, 2019, and $118,044 from December 1, 2019, to November 20, 2021 – directly.

“The claimant, having opted to receive 25 per cent of his WASA notional salary for his period of service at the PSA, therefore, decided that his terminal superannuation benefits would be fulfilled by WASA through his WASA pension plan, disentitling him to any superannuation benefits from the PSA for the said period of service.

“He could only choose to accept superannuation benefits from either WASA or the PSA for his period of service from November 27, 2009, to December 31, 2021.

“Since he chose to be paid 25 per cent of his WASA notional salary, he cannot therefore now claim superannuation benefits from the PSA also for that same said period of service.”

Superannuation is a retirement benefit offered to employees by their employers.

The application said the June 28 order meant that Duke would have collected benefits for a second time and would “become unjustly enriched.”

It also said it was “inconceivable” for a full-time officer of the PSA to receive a pension before they reached retirement age. Duke resigned at 45 to enter politics.

It said Duke could not expect to receive retirement benefits in keeping with the resolutions referred to in the judge’s June 28 order since two were rescinded in July 2009, when Duke was chairman of the general council and another resolution was never approved by the PSA’s conference of delegates so it, too, was unenforceable.

“On the claimant’s evidence, the terms and conditions applicable to the PSA mirror those in the public service, specifying a retirement age of 50 years,” the application said, denying also an agreement to remove the age requirement for pension entitlement.

Duke is represented by attorneys Farai Hove-Masaisai and Chelsea Edwards. Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes and Kelvin Ramkissoon are representing the PSA.


"PSA wants Watson Duke’s pension payment order set aside"

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