The West Indies Players Association (WIPA) will continue to carry significant power in terms of negotiating for the regional players, as yesterday they won another round in the battle to keep their bargaining power with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).
The present Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) (the “Agreements”) between the WIPA and the WICB will remain in force until the dispute between the two parties is decided in the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago at a future date.
Until then, Mr. Justice Ricky Rahim, has granted a final mandatory injunction, forcing the WICB to treat the Agreements in full force and effect and, despite the WICB’s pleas to the contrary, has made it clear that the WICB would be held in contempt of court if it breaches the court’s order. Until then, the Agreements will continue to protect the rights of the players. The Agreements, and other documents safeguarding the rights of the players, came into effect on September 1, 2005 with the provision that they could only be changed or replaced with the agreement of both parties. If not, they would continue in force.
In 2008, the Agreements rolled over. However, in 2011 the WICB signaled its intention to unilaterally terminate the Agreements. The WICB’s position was that a termination provision can be implied in the Agreements even though none is specifically stated. WIPA objected to this and in reply stated that not only did the parties intentionally omit a unilateral termination clause, but that the agreement mandated the parties to negotiate and come to new agreement themselves, roll over the Agreements for another three years, or that a new agreement be formed by a third party pursuant to a dispute resolution clause. The Agreements were not registered in Industrial Court.
Despite repeated requests by WIPA’s lead negotiator, Dave Kissoon, the WICB refused to withdraw its notice of termination, forcing WIPA to go to court on November 30, 2011. WIPA’s legal team was led by Mr. Kissoon of Cozen O’Connor, with Ms. Sushilla Jadoonanan as instructing attorney. The WICB was represented by Christopher Hamel-Smith, S.C., Luke Hamel-Smith and Catherine Ramnarine. After significant argument on November 30th by both sides, Justice Rahim granted an injunction, and scheduled the matter for oral submissions on December 8, 2011. The hearing continued on January 19 for further oral submissions and again Thursday.
During this entire period WIPA tried to persuade the WICB to withdraw its termination notice, but the WICB stubbornly refused.
Commenting on the judgment, WIPA’s President and CEO, Dinanath Ramnarine said, “Justice Rahim’s decision in the matter ensures that the WICB cannot continue to trample upon or violate the rights of the players until the matter is thoroughly ventilated in the High Court. In the meantime the WICB is debarred by law from pursuing its path of willful and wanton disregard for the rights of cricketers.”
WIPA’s President and CEO, Dinanath Ramnarine, in congratulating Mr. Kissoon and his legal team, made it clear what the victory means to the players. “We are elated that the CBA and MOU for which we fought and which is vital to keeping the playing field level will continue to be in force. We are very clear what the intention was when we agreed to it and are confident that our struggle has been vindicated.
Ramnarine continued “it is a real shame that the WICB under this present leadership is allowed to spend significant sums of monies in legal fees in the courts to take away the basic rights of the cricketers while the game continues to suffer”.
Ramnarine stated further, “We are always willing to work with the WICB on a new agreement but it cannot be to the detriment of the players or the game itself. The very tenets of the agreements require the highest standards of accountability and transparency as well as the protection of the rights of the players. WIPA remains hopeful that this decision will help the negotiation process and bring the WICB back to the table, all in the best interest of West Indies cricket.”