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Delay in court hearing of pension and gratuity matter

Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes – has been retained to represent the Keith Mitchell government in the pension and gratuity court matter

The St. George’s High Court has granted the Keith Mitchell-led Government more time to prepare its defense in a court battle with public sector trade unions fighting to secure 25% gratuity and pension for public officers.

Information reaching THE NEW TODAY is that the female judge, who varied the date for the hearing of the matter to March 9, 2020, was assigned to the island as a criminal judge and the matter was adjourned as she would not be presiding over civil matters.

This newspaper was told that the matter was scheduled to be heard on November 21 but Justice Paula Gilford who presided over the matter in Chambers took a decision to vary the date after Solicitor General, Dia Forrester made a submission for an adjournment on the grounds that the government had retained a new legal counsel from Trinidad and Tobago who needed time to study the case.

The new attorney has been identified as Douglas Mendes, SC, who is also representing the Integrity Commission in a matter involving the state-owned Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB), which is currently before the Court of Appeal.

Former Attorney General Cajeton Hood has got a single judge of the Court of Appeal to grant a stay in an inquiry started by the Integrity Commission involving former MNIB Chief Executive Officer, Ruel Edwards who is facing allegations of wrong-doing.

Mendes is now representing both the Mitchell-led government on the Pension issue and the Integrity Commission in the Ruel Edwards matter.

Attorney Hood, who is responsible for filing the claims against both the Integrity Commission and Government, has called on the administration to make public the amount of taxpayers’ money being spent to retain the Trinidadian-born Senior Counsel.

Hood claimed that the Mitchell regime has already spent “over $100, 000.00” of taxpayers’ money on the foreign attorney to provide government’s defense in both matters involving the MNIB probe and the fight for pension and gratuity for public servants.

Public sector unions and staff associations had days before the March 13, 2018 general elections, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with government on the understanding that retiring public servants were entitled to 25% gratuity payments as stipulated in the Grenada Constitution.

However, approximately eight (8) months later, the Unions were forced to take strike action in light of the government’s offer of only 2% over a period of 12.5 years.

This led to workers staying off the job in intense strike action in November last year, which led to Prime Minister Mitchell taking the decision to dock the salary of those teachers who engaged in industrial action.

One teacher, who was represented by Attorney Hood took legal action against government but the matter is still pending before the court.

In response to government’s action last December, the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), which is the bargaining agent for teachers, upped its actions by instituting the work-to-rule concept, in which teachers were instructed to only follow the duties as stated in their individual contracts for a period of one year in the first instance.

In a recent interview with THE NEW TODAY GUT President Lydon Lewis informed that when the year is completed this December “the GUT Executive through consultation with the membership (would decide) what happens going forward.”

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