Petrojam to pay for unfair and unjustifiable dismissal
STATE oil refinery Petrojam, already struggling under the weight of a bruising scandal, has been knocked further on the ropes by an Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) ruling on Monday that Roselle Scott-Heron’s dismissal as human resources manager on December 23, 2016 by then General Manager Floyd Grindley was unjust and unreasonable.
In fact the IDT, after hearing arguments from attorneys for both sides, as well as Scott-Heron herself, also stated that the manner in which she was dismissed was a breach of the Labour Relations Code and rules of natural justice.
Scott-Heron’s lawyers had argued that a fair and reasonable award for their client would have been compensation of no less than three years’ salary. However, the IDT ordered that Scott-Heron be paid 12 months’ emoluments and that the terminal payments made to her at the time of her dismissal should not be deducted from the award.
The three-member panel heard Scott-Heron’s case over seven sittings between February 5, 2018 and October 23, 2018.
Petrojam was represented by attorneys Gregory Reid and Gregory Reid Jr, while attorneys Symone Mayhew, Roshelle Johnson and Kerry-Ann Sewell appeared for Scott-Heron.
The IDT heard that Scott-Heron was employed as manager, human resource development and administration effective September 8, 2014.
Reid, in presenting the company’s case, said Scott-Heron “failed to live up to the performance requirements of the position”. He said that the company’s witnesses would provide evidence to verify Petrojam’s dissatisfaction with Scott-Heron’s performance which “had to do with the handling of employees and the communication with her supervisors… the lack of strategic direction, and the failure to execute human resource strategies where applicable”.
Reid also said that Scott-Heron’s termination was as a result of Grindley’s dissatisfaction with her performance and inability to manage her portfolio.
According to the IDT report of the hearings, Reid admitted that the procedures in relation to due process and the processing of Scott-Heron’s termination were not adhered to. The tribunal also reported that although Reid had stated that witnesses would provide evidence to verify the company’s action, he further said he would not be calling any witnesses.
Outlining the case for the aggrieved, Mayhew said that on December 23, 2016 Scott-Heron was called to a meeting by Grindley who told her that her employment would be terminated with immediate effect, but she would receive one month’s pay in lieu of notice. She was also handed a letter of termination.
Mayhew told the tribunal that Scott-Heron pointed out that the terms of her employment contract did not give Petrojam the right to offer payment in lieu of notice, but this advice was ignored by Grindley.
“Instead, he suggested than an appointment be made for her to meet with him the following week to discuss ‘a reason’,” the IDT report quoted Mayhew.
The attorney also told the tribunal that prior to the termination of her client’s employment, neither Grindley nor anyone at Petrojam expressed any dissatisfaction with how she did her job. “Further, there was no complaint against her about her conduct. She was never the subject of any disciplinary complaint or proceedings,” the IDT document quoted Mayhew.
Scott-Heron, in her testimony, pointed out that Grindley had assumed duties one month before her dismissal and during that time there were no unusual human resource issues at Petrojam.
She related the events of the December 23, 2016 meeting with Grindley and said that subsequent to that the company’s actions had humiliated and caused her emotional distress.