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Words of advice to teachers

Attorney-at-law Cajeton Hood had a stint as Attorney General during the 2013-18 period in government of the NNP administration

Former Attorney General Cajeton Hood has warned teachers to be cautious in their dealings with the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration and to guard jealously the recent high court ruling in favour of pension for public sector employees.

Hood was invited by the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) to brief the membership on the ruling of high court judge, Justice Raulston Glasgow that the Pension Disqualification act passed by the 1979-83 left-leaning People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) was null and void and in conflict with the Pension act that is entrenched in the Grenada Constitution.

The PRG of late Marxist leader, Maurice Bishop had passed the Disqualification act as part of the establishment of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) in 1983 which provided some form of pension for retired civil servants but less in financial terms than the pension that was constitutionally recognised.

The GUT conference was held at St Mark’s Secondary school and was attended by a host of dignitaries including Governor General Dame Cecile La Grenade and a number of top government officials.

The ex-government principal legal advisor between 2013 and 2018 was invited by the union to address the pension issue and the docking of the salaries of teachers almost two years ago by Prime Minister Mitchell after they took industrial action to press their demands on gratuity payments.

Speaking to THE NEW TODAY after addressing teachers, Hood said that there is nothing that Dr. Mitchell can tell the workers now “in secret” due to the court ruling in their favour and against the State.

The Prime Minister had expressed an interest in meeting with the public sector unions last week to discuss the ruling and to discuss common grounds on the way forward for the country in light of the millions now due to retired civil servants.

According to Hood, “As I said to them before they talk to him again, he must first of all commit himself to respecting the court. If he does not do that they should not speak to him and I emphasised that on several occasions. There is nothing to be talked about.

He (Dr. Mitchell) has to first commit to accepting the judgement of the court and then you talk and you have to say that to them very clearly – we are not discussing the issue of pension because you decide to abridge the agreement from since 2018 and you lied and say that pension was in place since 2018 which is not the truth, we have nothing to talk about,” he added.

On the eve of the 2018 general election, Prime Minister Mitchell brought together two public sector unions and the bodies negotiating for police and prison officers and promoted a new scheme called “Pension Restoration” which helped to galvanise support for NNP and its crushing 15-0 victory at the polls against the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Hood, who is now back in private practice said he was asked a specific question by a teacher about at the St Mark event about the possibility of the GUT Executive engaging in a discussion with the government and compromising the judgement in their favour.

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“I told them to sue the Executive and sue all of them and I was very emphatic and clear on that,” he quipped.

There are reports in some legal circles that despite public pronouncements from the Mitchell-led government that it will not appeal against Justice Glasgow’s ruling that the Legal officers in the Ministry of Legal Affairs have received instructions to prepare an appeal.

When asked about this, Hood said: “The question of whether or not he will file it is what he’s keeping in his back pocket together with the Bell (to call a fresh general election). So he wants to synchronise the filing with whatever bell he’s ringing and that is the reality of the situation.”

Hood stressed that he suspects Prime Minister Mitchell is planning “to stall the unions, pretend that he’s talking, he’s going to give them the same pill that he gave them in 2018 and then ring the bell.”

“He might even ring the bell and then file the appeal. If he does that my first argument before the court is that having called the appeal he has lost the right to appeal. Having rung the bell, he has lost the right to act as the Executive head and from the standpoint of ethics it will show him in a bad light,” he said.

According to Hood any appeal by the State against the Pension ruling in favour of public sector employees at this stage will bring into serious question the character of Prime Minister Mitchell and his credibility in light of recent public utterances on the issue.

“It might not be a sufficient reason to rule against the government but sufficient to say that they are acting in bad faith and I can’t trust what they are saying.

He’s going to try to hamstring the unions into some kind of agreement or arrangement and if he doesn’t get through he’s going to file the appeal and say he tried talking to them and their head hard etc, etc.

He will then say he has no option (but to go to the Court of Appeal) as he has an obligation to look after the poor people in the country and will not have enough money to take care of the ongoing road work around the island.

He’s not interested in winning or losing the appeal – he’s only interested in the political fallout. He’s interested in the (Pension) matter insofar as it affects his cash flow – that’s all he’s concerned about.

He’s not interested in right or wrong and constitution and law – he’s only interested in economics, how it’s going to affect his cash flow. That’s the way he will be going.”

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