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Staff boycott shuts down city court
The Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court was virtually shut down yesterday, with almost 95 per cent of administrative support staff staying away from work in protest of new policies being implemented at the court. In response to the action, which almost completely crippled the court’s productivity, the judiciary issued a press release last night, acknowledging repercussions of the protest and assuring members of the public that operations at the court would return to normal this morning.
“Persons with matters listed for tomorrow or wishing to conduct other business such as the payment of traffic ticket fines or applications for liquor licences are invited to attend court and seek services as usual,” the release said. The T&T Guardian was told that the protest, which was guised by some of the protesting workers as a reaction to rumours of a tuberculosis outbreak, was in fact related to the work of a senior administrative officer who began making changes in staff policy since being assigned to the court, a little over a month ago.
The judiciary’s release stated that the “sickout” action affected every department of the court and even included some police officers assigned to Court and Process Branch. Some of the changes being opposed by the protesters are related to staff punctuality, customer service and inter-departmental transfers. Despite the judiciary’s assurances, staff sources said that their protest would continue for the rest of the week and would only cease when the Clerk of the Peace, the senior administrative officer, was transfered to another court.
“Everyone complaining about that lady. Staff, police and the public can’t deal with her. She has to go,” a protesting worker, who wished to remain unidentified said in a interview yesterday. A judicial source said the action seemed to be well co-ordinated as prisoners, who were scheduled to reappear at the courthouse for the continuation of their cases, were not brought from prison, yesterday morning.
The source said that the “crisis” led Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar to call an emergency meeting with her fellow magistrates yesterday morning. Among the contingency plans implemented by Ayers-Caesar to minimise the effect of the protest was a request for a temporary cashier from the Port-of-Spain High Court to facilitate customers who came to the court to pay traffic tickets and for liquor licences.
In the release, the judiciary said Ayers-Caesar wished to thank the small group of staff who did show up for duty yesterday. “She expressed her deepest appreciation to those staff members who responded to the situation today by undertaking tasks to minimise inconvenience to customers,” the release said.