The Industrial Court has thrown out an application to stop the 21st-century policing project. The president of the court, Deborah Thomas-Felix, rejected the documents filed by the president of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association, Sgt Anand Ramesar. The court nevertheless said the project may be illegal as the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) was not brought in when the terms and conditions of the project were being drafted. But Thomas-Felix said applications relating to police labour cannot be brought against the Commissioner of Police but instead must be brought to the CPO.
It took just under an hour for the special tribunal, comprising Thomas-Felix, the court’s vice president Ramchand Lutchmedial and the chairman of the Essential Services Division, Vernon Ashby, to conclude that the documents presented by the association were not properly filed and therefore the court could not hear the matteR. On March 20, the association sent Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs a pre-action protocol letter, which was signed by secretary of the association, Sgt Michael Seales. Seales led Ramesar in the matter. Both are attorneys. Ramesar appeared as the applicant. Gibbs, who was not present, was represented by attorneys Russell Martineau, SC, and Gerald Ramdeen.
The CPO also was sent a a letter of notice but was not represented. Sifting through the bundle of documents, Thomas-Felix said she was “perplexed,” and told Ramesar what had been presented was a claim form like those presented in the High Court. She asked Ramesar what the substantive claim before the court was because there were no documents indicating the claim, and even if the association were to take the matter to the High Court, a statement of claim also must also be presented.Examining the documents presented, Thomas-Felix read: “You are a company incorporated under the laws of Trinidad and Tobago? Is that correct?” Ramesar replied that it was.
Thomas-Felix asked whether the association was a company or a recognised, registered association. Ramesar then agreed that it was in fact the latter. Saying that the court had “so many concerns,” Thomas-Felix questioned whether an association could in fact bring an injunction against the police commissioner. Thomas-Felix asked: “You have convened the special tribunal to hear what? It is difficult for us to even ascertain what is before the court so we could even move further.” In summing up, Martineau suggested the association should “put its house in order” before the matter could proceed. Thomas-Felix also emphasised that agreements relating to the terms and conditions of work of police officers must be filed at the Industrial Court.“So, first of all, you have no documents which suggest that both parties agreed to this initiative. We have nothing in our registry,” Thomas-Felix added.
Responding to the decision yesterday, Deputy Police Commissioner in charge of Operations Jack Ewatski said he was pleased. Ewatski added: “We intend to continue to work with the association to make the service more effective and efficient.” But despite being faced with the rejection from the Industrial Court to stop the project the association has branded the matter as a victory. Ramesar, who described the ruling as “very good” for the Police Service, termed the project as illegal. He added: “The association thinks, having regard to the proceedings, it would have been a very good event for the Police Service in so far as the assocaition was able to understand the court’s perspective in a lot of instances. “The court having to outline the role of the chief personnel officer in terms of conditions, the association has now formed the opinion that every action of the Commissioner of Police in relation to the 21st-centurty policing project is illegal as it no longer involves the CPO,” Ramesar said.
He said the association now took the stance to completely disengage itself regarding support of that project. “It is affecting terms and conditions. It ought not to move forward until it involves the CPO,” Ramesar added. He said the next move was to hold discussions with the CPO and indicate the “breaches.” “We have no documentation that the CPO would have been involved in the project when it began. The working of police officers outside the regulations and the stipulated terms and conditions as it is now, in so far as it does not involve the CPO is illegal," he said. Seales said he intended to get the court transcripts as the matter now fell in the relm of a labour dispute. He added: “This matter now has to be referred to the minister (Labour Minister) so that he could put a cap on what the commission can do because the court is on record as saying it is wrong because there is no CPO involvement, because the terms and conditions would have been changed without the involvement of the CPO.”