18th Oct 2012

Source: Trinidad Express

Ernest Hilaire, former West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) chief executive officer, came under fire during his cross-examination by the West Indies Players Association’s (WIPA) lead counsel, Dave Kissoon as the courtroom battle between the WICB and WIPA continued yesterday at the Port of Spain High Court, with Justice Ricky Rahim presiding.
Hilaire, who served as the WICB CEO from 2009-2012, was called to the witness stand to give evidence in the dispute between WIPA and the WICB over the use of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Memorandum of Understanding (CBA/MOU) between the Board and the players.

Kissoon showed that Hilaire had stated in an interview with veteran broadcaster Simon Crosskill that he had received letters from several players instructing him not to deduct money from their salaries and forward it to WIPA.

Yet, when the question was posed to Hilaire if any player had ever written the Board stating that he had revoked membership with WIPA, Hilaire responded, “No, not during my tenure.”

He also admitted under oath that he had not witnessed a weakening in the relationship between WIPA and its members, something he had alluded to in his witness statement.
Hilaire also admitted that he assisted former WIPA CEO Dinanath Ramnarine with the formation of the West Indies Player Management Company Limited (WIPMACOL), the management company that owns the rights of the players, and that Ramnarine was not the chairman as originally stated.

Kissoon also went into the issues of performance appraisal and sponsorship fees for players, saying that the Ramnaresh Sarwan dispute, which was settled in May of this year, was the breach of a clear and unambiguous clause in the MOU, and that the WICB had a year and a half to settle the issue but failed to do so.

When asked if the players would no longer have contractual right to fair appraisal and the Provident Fund if the agreements are terminated, Hilaire said that he believes these will be covered in the retainer contracts.

However, Kissoon showed that the appraisals are addressed in Schedule F while payments to the Provident Fund are highlighted in Article 15 of the MOU.

Hilaire also said that sponsorship fees to players were implemented to compensate for the lack of a retainer contract. This was after Kissoon produced documents showing that the fees were being paid since 2004, despite the WICB claiming its payment began only as recent as 2009.

A current sum of US$35,000 per day for each day’s play—equally divided among the players for their image rights—is paid, but Hilaire contended that it was supposed to cease when the retainer contracts were introduced in 2006. He said, in order to avoid further conflict the Board continued with the payments.

“There’s always acrimony between the WIPA and the Board,” said Hilaire. “Even before my tenure there were strikes but we were able to convince WIPA that the best approach was not to call strikes.”

Earlier, yesterday, Anthony Deyal, former corporate secretary of the WICB, testified that the Board’s chief financial officer (CFO) Barry Thomas was using players’ contributions to offset recurring expenditure instead of applying it to the Provident Fund.

He said that and other issues highlighted in the Lucky Report raised serious concerns, and in order to protect his reputation and integrity he demanded that he be appointed corporate secretary.

“I decided I would not take the position offered of communications manager unless I was appointed corporate secretary of the Board in order to protect myself.”

He added that in 2006 he was part of an attempt to implement a permanent arrangement where players would accept part of the Board’s profit as a solution to the on-again, off-again relationship between both parties.

Deyal also testified that the agreements made good business sense, and would have placed the Board in a stable industrial relationship climate.

When cross-examined by Christopher Hamel-Smith, SC, lead counsel for the WICB, Deyal said that the permanent arrangement they sought to put in place for the players to share in the profits could have only been achieved through both parties engaging in negotiation.
Hamel-Smith closed the case for the WICB, the defendants in the matter, without posing any questions to Hilaire. He did not ask CFO Thomas to take the witness stand.

Written submissions by the defence will be submitted on November 12, with the claimants due to submit two days later. The defence will have until January 3, 2013 to respond to the claimants’ submissions.

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