Tue | Dec 5, 2023

April hearing for seven firefighters accused of breaches

Published:Tuesday | March 28, 2023 | 4:25 PM
Firefighter Sergeant Leo Bennett speaking with the media following his one-man protest atop the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre in St Andrew in March 2023.
Firefighter Sergeant Leo Bennett (left) and his colleagues protesting over working condition outside Gordon House in Kingston on May 17, 2022.

Firefighter Sergeant Leo Bennett, who drew public attention this month when he went atop of the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre in St Andrew to protest against working conditions at the Jamaica Fire Brigade, is to have a disciplinary hearing on April 6.

Bennett has been suspended from his job since May last year for three alleged breaches of the Fire Brigade’s Regulations, 1993.

However, three more charges have been added since his suspension, which are to be canvassed at his hearing.

Meanwhile, six other firefighters who are facing alleged breaches under the Regulations will have a hearing on April 11.

Attorney-at-law Courtney M. Williams, who is representing the seven firefighters, said today that while he could not state specifically what the defence will be for obvious reasons “it is our view that certain procedural steps were not followed in treating with the individual cases, which in turn would make it doubtful that these men would be afforded a fair hearing into these allegations. In that regard, and due to other irregularities, my clients are willing and ready to fight these allegations, and hopefully return to work."

In addition, Williams says certain protections are afforded to the men under the Constitution which no law passed in Parliament can abridge.

One of the charges against the seven firefighters is that on May 17 last year they were among a group of protesters at the intersection of Duke Street and Beeston Street in downtown Kingston and were addressed by an individual.

Following the protest, the fire brigade stated that the firefighters, without proper authority, communicated to the public, matters concerning the 24-hour shift arrangement in the brigade while they were in the vicinity of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

Bennett, who has been protesting for better treatment of firefighters, spent more than five hours on March 14 atop of the transport centre while waving a Jamaican flag.

He was suspended on May 3 last year for staging a one-man protest the day before in front of the fire brigade’s headquarters over shift arrangements.

He is also facing departmental charges of prevarication, breach of confidence, falsehood and discreditable conduct.

The seven firefighters are on suspension with half pay.

- Barbara Gayle

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