The lawyer for seven retired Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) employees who last week won their case against Government is challenging the BIDC to proceed hurriedly with a planned appeal of the judge’s decision.
After the state entity announced in a press release on Friday that it intended to appeal the ruling, attorney-at-law Gregory Nicholls virtually dared the BIDC to bring it on.
“If they are signalling their intention to appeal in a press release, I now say to the BIDC that they should abide by the words of no less an authority of his Lordship Jesus the Christ: ‘that thou doest, do quickly,’” a confident Nicholls said.
In a battle for the hearts of Barbadians, the two sides have engaged in a public exchange of words since Madame Justice Jacqueline Cornelius ruled that the forced retirement of the workers was unlawful, null, void and of no legal effect.
She had also ordered “an award of damages equivalent to the pecuniary loss [salaries due since 2015] occasioned by the unlawful administrative act and/or omissions on the part of the defendants” who were among 13 workers forced into early retirement in August 2015. The other six were not part of the lawsuit.
Both sides were given 28 days within which to file written submissions and affidavits regarding details of the damages, including interests.
In its press release on Friday the BIDC pointed to the court’s finding that the company had a legal right to exercise its discretion to compulsorily retire officers who have reached the voluntary retirement age of 60.
“The court ruled that although the BIDC had a right to exercise its discretion . . . there was insufficient consultation and this entitled the claimants to an award of damages,” the state entity said, adding that it did not agree with the court’s position on the use of discretion, the requirement to give reasons for the decision to retire the workers, and procedural legitimate expectations, hence it would appeal the ruling.
However, Nicholls said today his clients never challenged BIDC right to retire them. What they challenged, he said, was the board’s exercise of that power.
“The court upheld our challenge by ruling that the absence of consultations and the failure to give reasons fettered the exercise of the discretion to retire the workers,” Nicholls said, adding that the statutory body had initially denied that its “dire” financial circumstances were the cause of the retirements and it had maintained no reasons had to be advanced for the decision to retire the workers.
He also referred to the court ruling which noted that the BIDC did not put “one iota of evidence” to support the chief executive officer’s testimony that the corporation was in fact in dire financial straits.
Nicholls has maintained that the BIDC had sent home the workers without considering their individual circumstances and without consulting with them, and that the state agency had withheld evidence regarding the real reason for sending home the employees, pointing out that neither in its correspondence with the workers nor the NUPW had the corporation attributed financial constraints to the forced retirement of its staff.
Therefore, he had sought a declaration that the retirements were null and void; an order to quash the decision and damages equivalent to the pecuniary loss brought on by the “unlawful” decision to retire the workers.