Mon | May 27, 2024

COVID-19 vaccine mandate court appeal in St Vincent slated for May

Published:Monday | April 22, 2024 | 11:56 AM
The hearing was adjourned after a member of the three-judge panel was unavailable to hear the matter.

KINGSTOWN, Apr 20, CMC – The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal has set May 2 as the date for hearing the appeal in the COVID-19 vaccine mandate case.

The case was initially scheduled to be heard on February 1.

The hearing was adjourned after a member of the three-judge panel was unavailable to hear the matter.

Since then, public sector workers who were dismissed under the government's 2021 COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which the High Court later ruled was illegal, have been awaiting the new date for the hearing.

On March 13, 2023, High Court judge Justice Esso Henry — who has since been appointed as a Justice of Appeal — delivered what Jomo Thomas, a lawyer for the claimants, described as “the legal equivalent of a slam dunk”.

Henry ruled against the government in all but one aspect of the case, brought by the Public Service Union, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union, and the Police Welfare Association.

The government appealed the ruling but Justice Mario Michel, who was president of the three-member panel, said that one of the members was unable to sit as part of the panel on February 1.

“Accordingly, and regrettably, this matter will be adjourned to a date to be fixed by the chief registrar in consultation with counsel,” Michel said.

He said he wanted to assure the lawyers involved in the matter that the chief registrar would be asked to find the first available date convenient to counsel.

Since then, the parties have been anxiously waiting for a date for the hearing of the appeal.

Thomas confirmed to the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) on Friday that parties in the matter were informed that the appeal will be heard on May 2, when the Court of Appeal sits in Antigua.

In her March 2023 ruling, Henry held that the public sector workers dismissed under the government's COVID-19 vaccine mandate never ceased to hold their jobs.

She ordered the government to pay them all wages and benefits they would have received had it not been for the government's decision to terminate them.

The judge further ordered that the government pay punitive damages.

The court has granted a stay of execution of Henry's judgment, pending the hearing of the appeal.

Follow The Gleaner on X, formerly Twitter, and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us at onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com or editors@gleanerjm.com.