The Public Service Commission (PSC) is facing a possible lawsuit over the appointment of a number of Customs officers to senior positions.
Lawyers representing 12 aggrieved employees have written to the PSC giving it until Monday to rescind the appointments of those who were promoted to the posts of Assistant Comptroller of Customs, Customs Officer ll and Customs Officer lll effective September 1. It was not immediately clear how many officers were appointed to these positions.
The law firm of Gregory Nicholls & Associates, which is acting on behalf of the 12, told Barbados TODAY if the PSC did not revoke the appointments by the deadline, it would go to court to seek an urgent injunction to freeze the appointments.
At issue is what the law firm sees as an “unfair, irregular and unlawful” interview process that denied its clients a “fair and equal opportunity” to be promoted.
The disgruntled dozen contended that they ought to have been interviewed because they had the necessary qualification, unlike some of those who were given a hearing and eventually promoted.
“Our clients are jointly and severally aggrieved by the process which occasioned the appointment of those public officers to the said posts in the Customs & Excise Department and contend that their status as public officers has been materially affected by an unfair, irregular and unlawful process which led to the said appointments being made,” Gregory Nicholls & Associates said in a letter dated September 2, 2016 to PSC Chairman David Bowen and captioned, The appointment of public officers to vacant posts in the Customs & Excise Department.
The attorneys demanded that the Commission immediately advise Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave of the “egregious, unreasonable, irregular and unlawful process”, which led to the appointments and urge him to rescind them without delay.
Failing this, the letter stated, the Customs officers would file an action in the High Court for a judicial review of the “impugned and unlawful” process that led to the appointments and would seek an “an urgent injunctive relief to freeze the said appointments until a further determination is made by the court of the unlawfulness of the said impugned interview process which denied our clients a fair and equal opportunity to gain an appointment to a higher post in the Pubic Service of Barbados”.
The lawyers said in the four-page letter that all the officers had successfully completed the “very comprehensive” Customs Training Course which is a mandatory requirement for a permanent appointment at the level of Customs Officer ll and upwards.
They added that while some of those elevated had completed the same training course conducted by the Training Administration Division, a large number of them had not done so.
Even more disturbing to the 12 was the fact that were more experienced and had even trained some of the people who had become their superiors.
“Many of the said officers are junior to our clients in terms of their years and conditions of service and would have joined the Customs and Excise Department under the direct supervision and training of our clients at various times,” stated the document, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY late this evening.
The pre-action letter also recalled that the aggrieved Customs officers had responded to a circular in August issued by the Chief Personnel Officer inviting applications to fill vacant permanent and temporary posts in Customs.
But according to the complainants, only one of them had been interviewed for any of the positions.
The law firm also complained that its clients had not been given a satisfactory explanation as to why they were not afforded an opportunity to be interviewed or why the process as stipulated in the Recruitment and Employment Code “had not been followed” by the Personnel Administration Division in this regard.