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Privy Council orders pension payment for retired UWI lecturer after eight-year wait

Published:Monday | June 8, 2015 | 6:24 PMBarbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator

The Privy Council has ruled that a retired lecturer of the University of the West Indies (UWI) must get his supplemental pension although the institution claims he was 36 days short of being entitled to the benefit.

The supplementary pension is a special lump sum payout.

The decision in favour of Dr Boufoy Bastick, puts an end to a pension saga that began in 2007.

Dr Bastick, a psychologist, retired as a lecturer in the Department of Education on August 31, 2007, after turning 65 on June 27 of the same year.

Under the university’s rules, he was entitled to a supplementary pension benefit after his retirement if he had completed 10 years of “continuous service”.

Dr Bastick claimed the benefit but the UWI disputed it saying he was 36 days short of the 10-year mark, noting that his service began on October 6, 1997.

But the retired lecturer countered that his service began on August 11, 1997 and continued for more than 10 years.

The psychologist further claimed that even if his employment began on October 6, 1997, he would have completed 10 years of service consistent with the university’s rules.  

In court documents, Dr Bastick argued that a year, with reference to the rule, does not have to amount to 365 days which make up a calendar year.  

Successfully appealed
Supreme Court judge, Kay Beckford, had ruled in favour of Dr Bastick but the UWI successfully appealed.

In 2013, the ruling was overturned by a majority decision of the Court of Appeal.

President of the Court, Justice Seymour Panton had dissented, saying the former lecturer was entitled to the benefit.

The case, however, was not settled as the retired lecturer took the matter to the Privy Council, Jamaica’s final appellate court, which allowed the appeal.

In its decision today, the UK-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 Bastick’s appointment.”

The Privy Council also raised questions of the judgment in the Jamaican Court of Appeal.

“The stance adopted by the university in relation to Dr Bastick’s claim was subjected to severe criticism, and not merely by Justice Panton. Justice Patrick Brooks, while regarding himself constrained to find in the university’s favour, described the UWI’s stance as disgraceful. It is a paradox that a party should receive less criticism when it has lost than when it has won,” read a section of the Privy Council’s judgment.

However the judgment continued: “But, with respect to the Court of Appeal, the Board does not associate itself with its strictures on the university, which has a duty to administer the scheme for alleviation of superannuation hardship responsibly and therefore to defend the boundaries of entitlement under it. It was at any rate arguable that Dr Bastick did not qualify under the terms of the scheme and, although at its own risk in relation to costs, the university was entitled to present its argument in court.”