The Office of the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) has lost its final appeal against the Industrial Court’s decision to award compensation to a former Port-of-Spain City Corporation worker who was improperly terminated.
Delivering judgment yesterday, the United Kingdom-based Privy Council dismissed the appeal which was brought by the CPO’s Office against the Amalgamated Workers’ Union.
The appeal centred around the corporation’s employment of garbage compactor driver Daniel Riley, who was first hired in 1983.
In May 1999, Riley was charged with stealing 72 litres of gasoline. He was suspended pending the outcome of his case. Although Riley was eventually acquitted by a magistrate, the corporation, through the CPO’s Office, initiated disciplinary proceedings against him.
The disciplinary proceedings began in March 2002 but were only completed in January 2007.
While the tribunal was required to deliver its ruling in 10 days, it did so almost a year later.
Riley was found guilty of the charge and was terminated from the date of the alleged offence.
The union filed a trade dispute in the Industrial Court, which was eventually decided in Riley’s favour. The Industrial Court ordered that he be reinstated to his position and compensation based on his loss of earnings during the period of his lengthy suspension.
The CPO appealed the decision but lost in the Court of Appeal, which upheld the Industrial Court’s decision that there had been a breach of the corporation’s grievance procedure which resulted in substantial procedural unfairness.
In the judgment, the Privy Council ruled that it had the jurisdiction to hear the appeal despite the Industrial Court’s exclusive control of industrial relations litigation.
Lord David Kitchin, who wrote the judgment, also stated that the Industrial court’s findings in the case were correct.
“The failures by the corporation were so substantial that, in the Industrial Court’s view, the legality of the disciplinary process had been fatally undermined, necessarily rendering any subsequent dismissal for the alleged offence unfair,” Kitchin said.
Kitchin also ruled that the Privy Council’s intervention was not necessary as there had not been a substantial miscarriage of justice in the case.
He also rejected the CPO’s claim that in calculating the compensation for Riley, the Industrial Court failed to consider that he found a new job with substantial earnings soon after being suspended.
Noting that the CPO did not raise the issue in the Industrial Court or at the Court of Appeal, Kitchin said: “It is far too late to raise it now.”
The CPO was represented by Peter Knox, QC, and Olivia Wybraniec. Anand Beharrylal, QC, Lemuel Murphy, Ganesh Saroop and Alvin Pariagsingh.