After about two weeks of hearings, a decision is expected on Friday in the case against the state-owned Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) brought by seven of ten employees who were compulsorily retired because they had reached the age of 60.
The presiding judge Justice Jacqueline Cornelius gave the court early notice this afternoon she intended to give an oral ruling on Friday or on September 2 if the Friday deadline could not be met.
The BIDC has said that the retirements will take effect at the end of next month, but the lawyers for the seven want the court to halt the retirements until after a full judicial review.
The judge informed the attorneys in open court that a trial on that review was not likely to start before February next year.
The attorney representing the workers, Gregory Nicholls, spent today’s near three-and-a-half hour hearing arguing the case for his seven clients, contending that when the corporation retired his clients, it failed to factor in all of the provisions of the Statutory Pensions Act by only considering the part of the law that gave it the discretion to terminate them.
He also addressed the corporation’s submission regarding the balance of justice and whether this case was of general public interest.
“Is the public interest more in favour of the BIDC exercising a perceived statutory discretion on the partial application of the provisions invoking the retirement process under the Statutory Board Pensions Act?” he asked.
Nicholls contrasted that position with what he said was “the claimants’ reliance on a wider public policy benefits that came into being by virtue of an amended Act that sought to synchronize the age of retirement in the public sector, including statutory companies, within the age prescribed under the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).”
He argued that while the BIDC had a lawful discretion to retire workers, that discretion had to be balanced with the rights and legitimate expectation of the employees.
The lawyer severely condemned the statutory body’s submission with respect to the benefits which can be accrued, should it lose its case.
“The BIDC is saying, ‘if we are wrong, tax payers will pay’. This cannot be in the wider public interest. It cannot be in the interest of the public for a public entity to run amok and say, ‘if we lose, the public purse will pay’,” Nicholls repeated.
While admitting that some of his clients did not want to return to the BIDC, all of them needed to be protected from forced retirement after September 30, in case the judicial review trial lasted way beyond that time.
The hearing on the injunction continues on Wednesday.