Information Officer I (Ag.)
Department of Information and Public Relations
STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE VINCENT WHEATLEY
MINISTER FOR NATURAL RESOURCES, LABOUR & IMMIGRATION
SEVENTH SITTING OF THE THIRD SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
THURSDAY, 29TH APRIL, 2021
Making Redundancy Transparent, Fair and Reasonable
Mister Speaker, I thank you once again for the opportunity to address this Honourable House and the people of The Virgin Islands.
Mister Speaker, recently it was brought to my attention that a company who may be on the verge of merging with another had made redundant a group of VIslander/Belonger employees. In layman terms, Mister Speaker, redundancy is an act where the task for which an employee was hired to perform has been altered or discontinued. Consequently, redundancy can be used as a mechanism for dismissing an employee. However, Mister Speaker, for this action not to be deemed as unfair, qualifying circumstances must exist and the employer must show that the reason for the dismissal is truly due to unavoidable circumstances.
Mister Speaker, today, I therefore encourage employers to be transparent, fair and reasonable when initiating any redundancy procedures by first giving the employee adequate written notice or even holding a staff meeting to address the reasons why redundancy measures are being taken and to identify those employees that are at risk of becoming redundant. The method of selecting employees for redundancy should be transparent. The group may be selected as a result of disciplinary record, length of service or other unbiased criteria. Mister Speaker, I express that the “unbiased criteria” should not be that the employees are VIslanders/Belongers as such actions may render the redundancies to be considered unfair dismissals. Additionally, it is unlawful to terminate the employment of a suitable qualified VIslander/Belonger in favor of an expatriate employee if there is no good reason. Employers must also ensure that the redundancy process is not made public until after the written termination notice is presented to all employees being made redundant.
Mister Speaker, I further advise that after issuing the written notice in adequate time and/or holding a general staff meeting and once the selection criteria has been established, that further consultation be initiated with the group of employees before identifying the selections.
Mister Speaker, of further importance is the fact that the Labour Commissioner must be notified immediately or at least one (1) month before the termination date; as stipulated in Section 99 of the Labour Code, 2010, particularly, in a situation where three (3) or more employees are being made redundant. In turn, the Labour Commissioner is to inform the Minister of the redundancy. It is my understanding that, to date, the Commissioner has not been officially informed of any redundancies taking place at the previously referred to organisation. Therefore, she has not informed me of same.
Mister Speaker, I want all organisations, especially the one that I referenced (for that organisation knows that I am referring to it), to take note that if it becomes necessary within six (6) months following the termination process, for that organisation, to hire employees to perform the same duties from which the employees were removed, that the employer is obligated to give first preference and rehire the redundant employees. I expect Mister Speaker, that if this becomes the case, it will be done as we will be monitoring closely what happens.
Furthermore, employees who have been in continuous employment for at least 12 months and being made redundant are entitled to severance payments. As such, I encourage all employees, who have doubts and whose employers have not done so already, to contact the Department of Labour and Workforce Development to ensure that redundancy calculations are accurate to receive the correct severance entitlement payments.
Finally, on another note Mister Speaker, I implore employers, as we all work towards the common goal of making our workforce stronger, better and more efficient to embrace social responsibility and provide opportunities for VIslanders/Belongers to be mentored while on the job, by having them engage in shadowing for succession planning undertakings.
Thank you, Mister Speaker.