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Defence Force changes captains employment duties despite court order

Willock believes this move undermines the court’s instructions and as a result has taken further legal action.

Defence Force Officer, captain Javonson Willock

The Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force has moved ahead with actions against an embattled captain who was accused of misconduct and asked to quit. The defence force has changed Javonson Willock’s work conditions despite a court order.

Justice Drysdale’s order explicitly directed the Defence Force to refrain from implementing any decisions or actions against Captain Willock until the court could determine the validity of the Force’s intention to demote him from a permanent to a contractual position. However, the Force has stated its intention not to renew his stint after January 31, 2024, when they allege his current contract will end. 

Willock believes this move undermines the court’s instructions and as a result has taken further legal action.

After serving in the Force for 18 years, when he returned from vacation this month, he was stripped of his Staff Officer position to oversee all operations and training matters over the entire ABDF and has now been placed in charge of the mechanics and arranging pick up and drop off. He was also asked to report to a subordinate in rank before making a complaint and having the reporting status changed.

This employment suit stems from an earlier judgement by the High Court to award Willock damages and costs for being unfairly tried for misconduct and being reprimanded by the Force as a result. Those costs have not been paid. In fact, in court documents the ABDF denies forcing him to resign or stripping him of any rights.  

In addition, the defence force is arguing that Willock never held an indefinite commission or permanent employment and that giving him a commission scroll was an “administrative error” that they sought to rectify as soon as it was recognized. A permanent position they argue, cannot be automatically granted.

The Force also stated that Willock was not guaranteed employment up to the age of 47 – the mandatory retirement age and pensionable age within the military.

In court documents, they also deny that Willock had been “specifically or maliciously targeted”.

They claimed to have made changes to 36 other officers’ commission scrolls, a practice that dates back to 2013. They claimed that during a meeting in March of 2022, a number of officers, including Willock were informed of the error and were told they would be granted extensions based on their performance.

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Willock, who recently applied to law school, risks losing his pension and an income moving forward.

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