A group of former short-term contract workers of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation has threatened to sue its chairman, aldermen, councillors and electors over a controversial decision to revoke a move to renew their contracts.
In a pre-action protocol letter sent on Monday and obtained by Guardian Media, David-Mark Kidney, who is representing 10 clerical and technical workers, claimed that the move by the elected officials meant that his clients were summarily terminated without due cause.
The dispute arose earlier this year as the corporation’s personnel committee moved to fill the positions before their contracts expired at the end of March.
The committee initially received approval from the corporation’s Council, advertised the positions, and interviewed the potential candidates for 16 positions including Kidney’s clients, who were previously employed.
Kidney’s clients were told that their new contracts would begin from the start of April but subsequently learned that the Council reversed its approval during a special statutory meeting on March 31.
During the meeting, vice chairman and Manzanilla/Fishing Pond councillor Kenwyn Phillip, Sangre Grande South councillor Calvin Seecharan, Sangre Grande North West councillor Nassar Hosein, Cumuto/Tamana councillor Anil Maharaj, and aldermen Suzan Holder and Keon Saroopsingh, all of United National Congress (UNC) members, allegedly voted to reverse the approval.
The five People’s National Movement (PNM) council members allegedly voted against the move, while the corporation’s chairman Anil Juteram abstained.
At the time, those in support of the move claimed that they were not satisfied with the workers’ previous performance and the recruitment process used to rehire them.
In the letter, Kidney, who repeatedly claimed that his clients had exceptional performance appraisals and no disciplinary issues throughout their time at the corporation, alleged that they are the victims of political wrangling.
“The decision to terminate my clients’ employment flies in the face of all rational and mature understanding of proper Industrial Relations practices and procedures and such immaturity is indeed elevated to unconscionablity by introducing a political play on the reasoning as though my clients are pawns in a mischievous game of political dominance in the Region of Sangre Grande,” Kidney said.
He also said that the Council improperly interfered with the committee’s human resource management functions.
“It is not a haphazard selection process nor is it obscure. This process has been used by the corporation for decades and is used and recommended according to best Industrial Relations practices. I reiterate the Council plays no role in this selection process,” Kidney said.
Kidney suggested that his clients would be willing to forgo filing a judicial review lawsuit over the corporation’s handling of the situation if the council agrees to reverse its decision to renege on their contract renewals.
Kidney’s correspondence also included a threat to sue Hosein for defamation over statements he allegedly posted on social media after the controversial vote by the council.
He suggested that Hosein defamed them although his posts did not reveal their names.
“For the reasons aforesaid I consider the defamatory publication as nothing short of a malicious attack on my clients in an endeavour to sabotage and/or muddy their personal and/or professional credit and to disparage them in their respective professions,” Kidney said.
Kidney also noted that his clients would agree to not proceed with legal action against Hosein if he removes the post, apologises, and pay his clients’ legal costs for threatening the defamation action.
The council members were given until today to respond to the legal threat while Hosein was asked to respond by yesterday evening.