By Elesha George
A man who claims he was suspended for a week without pay after taking photos at a function where the prime minister and investor Calvin Ayre were present has taken his case to industrial relations officials.
Independent management consultant Anderson Carty is requesting that the Office of the Labour Commissioner treat the case seriously, saying his client was suspended without a fair hearing.
The man in question is said to have taken a video and photos during a function at the Multipurpose Cultural Centre on June 30, where Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Ayre, plus more than 100 other invited guests, were gathered to view plans for an investment deal.
Carty said his client, who was working at the event, expressed concern that there seemed to be no social distancing as required by state regulation and was attempting to record the alleged infraction.
The consultant claims that one of Browne’s entourage temporarily confiscated the employee’s phone and deleted the pictures and the video that he had taken moments before.
Although Carty said he would seek further legal clarification, he rationalised saying, “I do not think that the police or any security personnel or any personnel of the prime minister’s entourage would have the legal authority to take someone’s phone from them and to delete those photos. I believe that an act of illegality had taken place in that respect”.
On July, the employee received a letter advising him of his immediate suspension.
The letter cited that the employee had “failed to follow explicit management directives by going to the area where a private meeting was held and took pictures and a video of persons attending the meeting”.
Carty however believes the meeting to be a public event, having been held at a public venue, and considering that Gaston Browne was acting in his capacity as prime minister and by virtue a public figure.
“The young man was very sure that the instruction was not to go on the floor in that area where the project was taking place and you couldn’t prevent the staff from being able to traverse the normal area of the facility in order to do their job,” Carty stated.
He said there were other staff members observing the same event.
The employees, who are part of a government organisation, are collectively represented by the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU), whose by-laws, according to Carty, entitle an employee to a disciplinary hearing if they are alleged to have committed infractions of any rules.
“That process was not followed,” he claimed. Calls to the At&LU went unanswered but the consultant told Observer that the body has been made aware of the matter.
Carty, who is now awaiting word on a hearing, explained that he has since sent a letter to the employer’s human resources manager requesting that the suspension be rescinded. He said he had received no response, forcing him to bring the matter before the Office of the Labour Commissioner.
“I’ve already prepared and sent this matter off to the Labour Department on the 19th of July. I did give the HR manager up until the 17th of July, which was last Friday, to respond and to rescind the suspension,” Carty added.
The employer in question refused to make any official comments about the incident and no response was received by the government – despite repeated requests – about the accusations regarding the prime minister’s entourage up to press time.
However a letter seen by Observer states that the employee was warned by security personnel who were assigned or a part a detailed meeting that what he was doing was in violation of a direct order. It states too that the employee continued his action prompting the disciplinary action