“I am saddened by the fact that at this date in our history we are still making these backward decisions and that we have had to go to court to secure the rights of the President of the Public Workers Union (PWU).
That’s the declaration of Attorney-at-Law Cajeton Hood, who has filed legal papers in the Supreme Court Registry against the ruling Keith Mitchell-led government on behalf of President of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Rachel Roberts, who he said was removed from her senior administrative position and “dumped at the CAIPO building,” at the end of January.
The former Attorney-General under the 2013-18 Mitchell government held a press conference on Monday to discuss the Roberts matter and other issues affecting public workers in Grenada.
According to Hood, the Public Service Commission (PSC) sent a letter to Roberts telling her that she is removed effectively from her post as Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health or Senior Administrative Officer “with effect from January 28 until further notice.”
The PWU boss was assigned to the Lucas Street-based Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office (CAIPO), which according to Attorney Hood does not have a post equivalent to the administrative post that was held by Roberts in Health.
The attorney said that while the PSC has the authority to remove persons from office “it is expected to act reasonably and not arbitrarily.”
He referenced the Constitution which “in our view says she must be removed from one office to another office,” pointing out that she (Roberts) has not been given an office in CAIPO (and) as a matter of fact, she has not been given a list of duties and the person in charge of CAIPO cannot tell her what she is doing there”.
The former principal legal advisor to the Mitchell administration stated that the Roberts situation reminds him of those days “growing up when the allegation was that (former Prime Minister) Sir Eric (Gairy) used to just send you to the Gravel heap (at Queen’s Park) when he didn’t like you, just send you to Carriacou”.
“The days of these arbitrary things, we thought were long over, since after the revolution but they are happening again”, he quipped.
“You cannot just transfer someone and just throw them on the Gravel heap as in Gairy days. You can’t just drop them in Carriacou as you see fit, you can’t do that and I am appalled that the Public Service Commission would even think of doing that”, he said.
According to Attorney Hood, it is clear to him that “she (Rachel) doesn’t have a post in CAIPO”.
“As a matter of fact, when you look at the budget for 2019, there is no post of senior administrative officer in CAIPO…they have literally demoted her,” he said, adding that, “she has (just) been collecting her administrative salary”.
The defense lawyer described the present situation facing the female trade union leader as “degrading to the individual…a great waste of public funds because you are paying someone for doing nothing”.
“This is not just a regular public worker, she is the President of the Grenada Public Workers Union, who is being treated as though she is a nobody…the members of the public service have selected her twice to be their leader and the Executive has chosen to single her out for discriminatory treatment”, he said.
Hood went on: “If indeed the President of the Grenada Public Workers Union can be treated in that way, what do you have to say for the other ordinary members? There is absolutely no respect being shown by the Executive for the union, the union process and negotiations.
That’s what I have to conclude”.Roberts who entered the public service as a secretary in 1989, has since equipped herself educationally with a Master’s degree in Business Administration and International Business and was promoted to her current administrative rank in 2010.
Attorney Hood filed a Constitution relief claim against the PSC with the Supreme Court Registry on her behalf on March 15.
However, he told reporters that a date is still to be set for the matter to be heard by a high court judge.
“We are saying that the Public Service Commission has acted contrary to the Constitution of Grenada…we are saying to the court that effectively, she has been removed from the public service…we are asking the court to say that she has been removed from her office for re-organisation purposes and that she is to be paid her gratuity and salary as though she has reached 60 years,” he said.
Current Prime Minister Mitchell is known to be not fond of Roberts who is one of three union leaders battling his government on the 25% gratuity and pension payments for public officers.
During a recent speech in Parliament, Dr. Mitchell stated that he was looking forward to the outcome of the PWU election earlier in the month as the outcome could bring about a change in the position to take the matter to court by Roberts and other union leaders.
Speculation was rife that the Grenadian leader was throwing his support behind Brian Grimes who mounted an unsuccessful bid to unseat Roberts from the PWU Presidency.