Court rules against former Red Stripe employee, criticises gov’t for delays | News

Business analyst Kevin Simmonds, who was made redundant by Red Stripe Limited in 2017, has failed to get the Judicial Review Court to quash the decision of the Minister of Labour and Social Security not to refer the dispute to the Industrial Disputes Tribunal.

Simmonds, through his lawyers, wrote to the Permanent Secretary in 2018 seeking the intervention of then minister, Shahine Robinson, in what he termed unjustifiable termination of his employment.

Several conciliation meetings were held between him and the company but there was no resolution at the final meeting held in July 2019.

It was then determined that guidance should be sought from the Legal Services Unit in the ministry to assist with any recommendations to the minister.

On January 9, 2020, Simmonds lawyers, expressing concerns about the delay, received a response that the minister was advising herself so as not to fall into error.

The Legal Services Unit prepared the guidance sought and sent it to the Attorney General’s Chambers on July 16, 2020 for a recommendation on how to proceed.

The court was informed that owing to staffing and other challenges at the AG’s Chambers, the recommendation was not sent to the Ministry until January 4 this year.

The long delay prompted Simmonds to take the issue to the Supreme Court in 2020 seeking orders to compel the minister to act.

In April, the Judicial Review Court unanimously ruled that the claim for an order directing the minister to consider the dispute in question according to the provisions of the Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act was refused.

Simmonds had claimed constitutional redress for the long delay by the minister to refer the dispute to the IDT but two of the three judges who heard the matter also ruled against him on that point.

However, the court frowned on the lengthy delay by the minister to inform Simmonds of the decision that his case was not going to be referred to the IDT.

The decision was communicated just before the start of the trial in January, which led to Simmonds having to file an additional claim for an order of certiorari to quash the minister’s decision.

The court said it “accepted the evidence of the attorneys-at–law for the minister that they encountered some difficulties with the onset of the pandemic, staff shortages and the relocation of offices, which interfered with their ability to advise the Minister before the date they did, there was no evidence of any step taken by the MLSS (ministry) to remind the minister’s attorneys-at-law of the outstanding recommendation as to how to proceed”.

There was also no evidence of any communication to Simmonds as to the difficulties being faced, prior to the filing of an affidavit on January 18 , the second day of the hearing, the court said.

The court said although costs were generally awarded against an unsuccessful party, because of what transpired in the case, it would depart from that general rule.

The court ordered that although the minister succeeded on the claim, the State should nevertheless be made to pay one-third of Simmonds’ costs of the proceedings.

Attorneys-at-law Kwame Gordon and Joerio Scott instructed by Samuda & Johnson, represented Simmonds.

Louis Jean Hacker and Nicola Richards instructed by the Director of State Proceedings represented the minister.

The court removed the Attorney General as a defendant in the proceedings.

The matter was heard by Justices Cresencia Brown Beckford, who wrote majority of the court’s 143-page opinion; Stephane Jackson Haisley and Carole Barnaby. 

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