Settlements for 2012
Maersk Trinidad Limited
25th October 2012 - You would think that allegedly owing someone some money for a cell phone wouldn't cost you your job. But when someone claiming to be from the Muslimeen visited the worker's workplace to ask for the money that was supposedly owed, the employer promptly dismissed the worker. No hearing. Done. End of story. That cost the employer $33,000 in an out of court settlement.
Infotech Caribbean Limited
20th July 2012 - The employer had made allegations concerning the worker's "attitude" which the worker disputed. The dismissal letter, which was issued without going through any proper procedures, cited "[you] gave the impression that you had no intention of making an attempt to improve or change your behaviour" as the reason for ending the employment. Conciliation in the Industrial Court resulted in a settlement of $20,000. The lesson is clear. Employers often treat standing up for your rights and speaking up as an "attitude problem" - but this will not rescue them as they must go through proper procedures and have a reasonable cause for dismissing a worker.
Crown Plaza Limited and Nicholas Development Limited
20th July 2012 - The worker in this matter was originally employed as a food court janitor by Nicholas Development Limited. The employer dismissed her because they found that her son was also employed by the Company - although in a completely different position of an electrician. This was done, according to the Company, to enforce their policy that family members cannot work together. The worker was then employed be next day in Capital Plaza Limited doing maid duties in the food court. Although this was another company within the same group of companies, it constituted a separate employment. The worker was summarily dismissed from this employment after being assaulted by a member of the public. Bilateral discussions resulted in a settlement of $15,000.
Novelty Mouldings and Design
1st May 2012 - The worker was made redundant with no notice or redundancy pay. The employer resisted any settlement until the matter reached the Industrial Court when it was agreed that the worker would be paid $15,000.
Total Safety Management Trinidad Limited
31st March 2012 - The worker applied for, and took, vacation before getting formal approval. Whilst this might have opened the worker up to disciplinary action (although not necessarily dismissal), the employer dismissed the worker without a hearing and backdated the date of termination of employment. Yet another example of an employer not following the principles of natural justice.
The matter reached the Industrial Court, but was voluntarily settled for the sum of $25,000 in an agreement between the Union and the Company.
Langston Roach Industries Limited
14th February 2012 - This would be funny if it were not such a sad indictment of the attitude of so many employers.
Our member was working on his machine at work when it broke down. Like a "good" worker, he went off and found something else to do until it was time to go home. So, he went to help some other workers 'unstuffing' a container. Although he did not know it, the other workers had been asked to work overtime so that the container could be cleared as soon as possible.
Our member worked until the end of his shift and then went home. Unbeknown to him, some of the other workers who had been asked to do overtime also left and went home.
The next morning, without an investigation, the employer promptly sacked all those who had gone home - including our member who simply went home at the end of his shift.
To quote the judgment of the Industrial Court: "... the Company has not shown that the worker had committed any breach whatsoever or that he was guilty of any conduct which could justify any disciplinary actions of any kind being taken against him. ... His actions were those of an industrious, dedicated and productive worker, interested in giving a full days work for which he should have been commended instead of being condemned."
In describing the Company's actions as "particularly harsh and oppressive", the Court Ordered damages of $32,000.
Barana Seafood Processors Limited
16th January 2012 - The worker was issued a second warning, third warning, final warning and a dismissal letter all on the same day - and backdated a week as he was off sick at the time. At no stage was there a hearing and the worker was simply handed all these letters at the same time. These events took place in 2009 and by 2012 the matter had reached the Industrial Court but with no fixed date for a hearing.
Unfortunately, the Company, closed down at the end of 2011 without the matter being heard in Court. The Union settled for $25,620.00 in direct discussions with the Company, which is what the worker would have received had he not been dismissed but made redundant when the Company closed down. The Union is confident that more could have been obtain had the matter been heard in Court.
Kam Wah Restaurant
12th January 2012 - As a waitress in this restaurant, the worker was entitled to staff meals - which the employer set at the most basic. When the worker's Supervisor told her to go and collect some staff meals at above the basic that the staff were entitled to, the employer saw this and suspended the worker. The suspension letter that the worker was handed, supposedly pending an investigation, had already come to the conclusion that that workers had committed a "fraud". This was even before any investigation.
The dismissal letter repeated much of what was in the suspension letter and had already been typed out and was just given to the worker. There had clearly been no real investigation and the worker was denied any right to put her case. In addition, the punishment was far in excess of what might be warranted - especially as none of the other staff involved were dismissed.
In a conciliated settlement through the Industrial Court, the Company agreed to pay the worker $15,000.
Settlements for 2011
Tiger Tanks Trinidad Limtied
2nd December 2011 - The worker was dismissed "with immediate effect" without the employer going through any recognised procedures. The reason given was "unprofessional behaviour" which the worker disputed, but could not challenge as there was no hearing. The matter was settled in conciliation at the Ministry of Labour with the Company paying the worker $30,000.
Veda General Contractors Limited
30th November 2011 - Although the worker in this non-unionised Company had worked for the employer for 11 years as an Electrical Supervisor he was still only being paid $2600 a month. The worker was employed at Piarco Airport and was summarily dismissed when the Company withdrew his Airport security pass. There was no written contract of employment and no letter of dismissal. Many of the working arrangements with the Company were based on verbal arrangements and "understandings".
This case highlights the dangers of not getting working arrangements in writing. The right to a written contract of employment, which is not currently a legal requirement in Trinidad and Tobago, is one of the NWU's demands. The low pay of the worker inevitably influenced the level of the settlement which was agreed at the Ministry of Labour at $15,000. The key lesson is that low pay and non-unionisation go hand in hand.
Piarco International Hotel
16th November 2011 - the worker, who was employed as a driver, was initially suspended because he was wearing a bandage on a sprained wrist and the employer wanted to be sure he was safe to drive. He was instructed to get a medical certificate confirming his fitness to drive which he did within a few days. On reporting back to work, the employer had already replaced him and hence the dismissal.
In conciliation in the Industrial Court there was an agreed settlement of $4500.00 which represented about five weeks salary. Part of what produced such a low settlement was the length of service of the worker (only four months) and his low wages ($3000 a month) but because there was not evidence that the worker had handed in a Certificate of Fitness. The worker said he had, the employer said they had no record of it. The key lesson for workers is to always keep a copy of any documentation.
21st October 2011 - the worker had worked for the employer since 1997. Because this was the construction industry, the worker had been moved from project to project and when he was made redundant, the employer argued that each project should be treated separately when calculating redundancy pay. In addition, the employer off-set the workers outstanding 35 days vacation against the 45 days notice required by the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act. The Industrial Court found in favour of the Union in establishing a continuous period of employment from 1997 to 2009 (rather than treating each "project" as a separate employment) and ordering that the 35 days outstanding vacation should not be off-set against the 45 days notice.
As result of the Union's representation, the worker was paid a total of $82,818.84.
Prestige Holdings Limited (parent Company of KFC)
10th October 2011 - the worker was a supervisor at a KFC outlet when some money went missing. Although there was no suggestion that the worker had stolen the money, the Company demoted her and started to take money out of her wages to get the money back. In fact, they took all of her wages except enough to pay her National Insurance contributions - which they then took to pay her NI contributions. Effectively they left her with nothing to live on.
The matter went all the way to the Industrial Court, although it was settled before there was full hearing. The Company agreed to stop making the unauthorised deductions and, although they offered to re-instate her as a Supervisor, the worker did not want that and accepted a settlement of $20,000.00 and the so-called debt owed to the employer in excess of $4,000 was written off.
Slot Spot Limited27th July 2011 - The Industrial Court had Ordered damages of $20,000 to this worker on 20th May 2010 but the Company had failed to pay. The Union obtained a Writ of Execution and a bailiff successfully secured a cheque for the full amount plus interest. The Company also had to pay legal fees, and bailiffs fees and costs.
Daisy's Exclusive25th July 2011 - One of the reasons given for dismissing the worker was that "Your actions have created an untenable situation resulting in a breakdown in relationship between you and Management, such that the Company lost its confidence in you to carry our your duties." The Court, in its judgement, said "'Loss of confidence' is not by itself, a sufficient reason for a worker's dismissal. an employer may lose confidence in a worker for a variety of reasons. There must be a valid reason or reasons for losing confidence in a worker and valid reason must be supported by credible evidence." The worker had been employed by the Company for only eight months and was awarded $15,000 in damages.
EZone Entertainment Limited30th June 2011 - The worker was supposedly dismissed on 31st December 2006 and then taken back on 1st January 2007. The Union argued that there was no dismissal. The worker was again terminated, ostensibly on the grounds of redundancy, but no procedures were followed and the basis for the redundancy was challenged by the Union. Both matters were subsequently settled for $20,000.
St. Joseph's Pharmacy11th May 2011 - The worker reported for work at the end of her vacation and the employer would not let her in. it seems it was an attempt to get the work to accept a change to her working hours to include evening work which the worker could not do as she was studying. The matter was settled in the Ministry of Labour for a total of $8,000.
Veneer Limited (Trading as Automotive Art)5th May 2011 - The worker was dismissed on grounds of redundancy. However, although the employer said that the store the worker was employed at was due to close this did not, in fact, happen. The Union argued that this was not a redundancy but a dismissal. No procedures were followed and there were no grounds for dismissing once the issue of redundancy had evaporated. The worker had already received $7700 in severance from the Company and the matter was settled in conciliation in the Industrial Court for a further $10,000.
North Central Regional Health Authority5th April 2011 - a worker was issued a Warning Letter by the employer who did not follow proper procedures. There was no hearing, the worker was not advised of any complaints against him and was not given any opportunity to defend himself. It was agreed that the Warning Letter would be withdrawn. The NWU has always emphasised that it is not just dismissals that should be challenged but all warnings where they are not considered appropriate or fair.
North Central Regional Health Authority22nd February 2011 - the North Central RHA tried to unilaterally change the worker's contract from a permanent to a fixed term contract. The Union contended that the worker's contract could not be unilaterally altered by the employer. What was important was that the worker had promptly rejected any attempt to vary her contract. The NCRHA had argued that it had varied the contract on the instructions of the Chief Personnel Officer. In its decision, the Industrial Court said: "... any powers that the Chief Personnel Officer may have to give directions to the Employer as a Regional Health Authority cannot, in this Court's opinion, include the power to direct it to act in contravention of the law or in a manner that is not in accordance with good industrial relations practice."
The Court went on to say: "The Court agrees with the submissions made on behalf of the Union. There are certain fundamental terms of a contract of employment that can only be altered by consensual variation."
In a damning criticism of the employer, the Court added: "In this case, the Employer blithely admits to repudiatory conduct against the worker and seeks perversely to benefit from its own wrongful and deliberate act by invoking a principle of law to suggest that the worker's only recourse is to resign and claim to have been constructively dismissed."
The Court held that : "... the worker is and has been employed on a contract of permanent employment of indefinite duration and that this term of her contract cannot be varied without the workers' consent."
Guardian Holdings Limited
18th February 2011 - a major settlement on behalf of a senior manager who was dismissed on grounds of redundancy. The details cannot be disclosed because of a confidentiality clause in the Terms of Settlement.
Export Centres Company Limited
28th January 2011 - the worker was required to complete certain reports for his Chief Executive Officer and it was alleged that he had not done so on time. The worker was suspended on no pay until he completed the reports. In order to complete the reports, the worker needed to use Company files which he could not access because had had been suspended! The matter was eventually solved, following Union intervention, when the Board agreed to reinstate the worker with no loss of pay resulting in $14,000 back-pay.
For settlements for the 2006 to 2010 period see here.