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Dear Editor: Confused about Judge’s advice to TTUTA

In a recent high court ruling, Justice Vasheist Kokaram dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA). The teachers asserted that the marking of school-based assessments (SBAs) for the CSEC and CAPE examinations did not fall under their contractual obligations.

The following Letter to the Editor questioning the judgement in the TTUA SBA case was sent to Wired868 by Fatimah Mohammed of Cunupia:

Photo: Teacher at a whiteboard.

I am puzzled at the recent advice given by high court judge Vasheist Kokaram in the complaint by the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) on whether teachers should continue marking school-based assessments (SBAs).

In his 60-page judgement, Kokaram advised that the dispute should be dealt with by a special tribunal of the industrial court. He also said the issues relating to the contractual obligation of teachers were ‘in essence a labour dispute’.

However, according to the Industrial Relations Act (1972, amended in 1994), lecturers and teachers cannot take their disputes to the industrial court because they are not deemed as ‘workers’.

Section 3 (c) of the Act states: “For the purposes of this Act, no person shall be regarded as a worker if he is … a member of the Teaching Service as defined in the Education Act, or is employed in a teaching capacity by a university or other institution of higher learning …”

Can someone please explain if teachers can take their complaints to the industrial court, especially if they feel they were unfairly dismissed or retrenched?

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