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Pay the man UWI! Privy Council orders pensions payment for retired lecturer

Published:Tuesday | June 9, 2015 | 12:00 AMBarbara Gayle

The United Kingdom Privy Council handed down a landmark ruling yesterday, in favour of a retired lecturer of the University of the West Indies (UWI) that the full service in relation to supplementary pension was not to be calculated in terms of calendar years.

Dr Anthony Boufoy-Bastick, a psychologist who retired as lecturer in the Department of Education in 2007, was told by the UWI in 2007 that he would have to work for 10 continuous years to get supplementary pension and he was 36 days short for that benefit. Boufoy-Bastick's employment began on October 6, 1997 until August 31, 2007 when he retired after turning 65 on June 7, 2007.

Patrick Foster, QC, who represented Bastick in the Court of Appeal, said, "We are pleased with the outcome because the Privy Council, in deciding the issues, took into account the full service that had been rendered by Dr Boufoy-Bastick, not just in calendar years." Foster explained that Boufoy-Bastick got his pension but the supplementary pension was an assured income by way of an annuity and that could amount to a hefty sum. He explained that now that Boufoy-Bastick took his case to the Privy Council and won, the UWI would have to pay him interest on the amount.

Foster said that the Privy Council found that although Boufoy-Bastick started the first academic year in October, there was nothing to indicate that he had done less than what was required from him in the first year of his employment.

After Boufoy-Bastick was denied his entitlement, he took the issue to the Supreme Court contending that he had worked for more than 10 years. He said even if his employment began on October 6, 1997, he would have completed 10 years of service consistent with the university's rules. Boufoy-Bastick contended that a year, with reference to the UWI rule, does not have to amount to 365 days which make up a calendar year.

Supreme Court judge Kay Beckford ruled in favour of Boufoy-Bastick. The UWI appealed and was successful in 2013 in having the Supreme ruling overturned by a majority decision. President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Seymour Panton, had dissented, saying the former lecturer was entitled to the benefit.

Boufoy-Bastick took the case to the Privy Council, Jamaica's final appellate court, which allowed the appeal.

In its decision yesterday, the United Kingdom-based court said that a year should be regarded as the academic period and not a calendar year. It also ordered the UWI to pay legal costs arising from the proceedings it heard, as well as legal costs in the Jamaican courts.

In a scathing judgment, the court said: "Take a student at the university who arrives on campus on September 1 and left on the first day of the long vacation which appears to be June 11. Would he not contend, and would the reasonable onlooker not agree, that he [the student] had completed a year of his studies? Or take a prisoner sentenced to 10 years. A variety of rules means that the sentence need not mean, and often does not mean, that the prisoner must serve a full 10 years. These two preliminary examples indicate only that in particular contexts, there can be some flexibility in the concept of a year. So the focus must turn to the particular context of Dr Boufoy-Bastick's appointment."