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JAMAICA | Petrojam ordered to pay dismissed general manager $15.8 million

  • Written by Wiredja News Desk
  • Published in Justice
KINGSTON, Jamaica, September 10, 2020 - The Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) has  sent a strong signal to companies regarding the summary dismissal of employees, ruling that former General Manager of the  State Oil company Howard Mollison be paid $15.8 million in compensation as he was unjustifiably dismissed four years ago.

The ruling issued yesterday after the IDT heard oral submissions over nine months from June 3, 2019 to March 16, 2020, also said the sum already paid to the former general manager as his severance package, should be considered as part of the compensation amount.

Mollison was employed on a two-year contract/gratuity basis as Petrojam's general manager with effect from February 9, 2015.

He received a letter on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 informing him that he was dismissed with immediate effect on the grounds that the substantive general manager Winston Watson was returning from his secondment to the parent company, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica.

After Mollision’s departure Floyd Grindley was appointed Petrojam general manager.

Mollison immediately took the matter to the Labour Ministry and engaged labour dispute practitioner Lambert Brown to marshall his case.

After the parties failed to resolve the matter, the minister of labour referred the dispute to the IDT for determination and settlement in accordance with Section 11A (1) (a) (i) of the Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act.

However, Petrojam obtained a court order quashing the referral, and Mollison then took the matter to the Court of Appeal which in 2018 ruled in his favour.

Petrojam’s lawyer Angela Robertson argued that Mollison was aware that the contract could be terminated on the return of the company's general manager who had been seconded to Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ).

“...With the return of the general manager to his substantive post, the company exercised its right to terminate Mr Mollison's employment in accordance with the provisions of Clause 15 l(b) of his contract. This was the underlying basis for the termination of his contract with the company,” Robertson argued.

However, Brown countered that Mollison's service was not terminated in accordance with the terms of his contract nor was it in accordance with the Joint Venture Agreement between PCJ and PDVSA, the Venezuelan company that owns a 49% stake in Petrojam.

In addition, Brown pointed out that Petrojam had breached Clause 2 of the Employment (Termination and Redundancy Payment) Act relative to the right of notice at the time of termination.

After its deliberations, the IDT concluded that Clause 15 l(b) of Mollison's contract of employment was merely used by the company to seek to justify the decision taken to abruptly terminate him, as there was no oral or written evidence presented that would have necessitated the immediate recall of the former general manager who was on secondment at PCJ.

That, the tribunal said, was in breach of the provision for a six-month notice period prior to any recall.

“Members were of the view that the manner in which Mr Mollison's dismissal was effected was more in keeping with the procedure for summary dismissal for cause.

The IDT said. his firing was not applicable in the case of someone who it was reported had provided outstanding service,”

The IDT found that Mollison’s dismissal was unjustifiable.

 

  • Countries: Jamaica