Caribbean News

Government minister to appeal Court decision on sackings

Tourism and Transport Minister Zane DeSilva is set to launch an appeal after a court ruled that his company had wrongfully fired his sister-in-law and niece.

The Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Employment Tribunal that Island Construction was wrong to dismiss Barbara Phillips and Rebecca Phillips over allegations of theft and dishonesty.

Attorney Archibald Warner, had argued that the tribunal should have pushed back their hearing until after a police investigation could be carried out.

But the request for an adjournment was denied and, despite an invitation to make further applications in person, DeSilva and his counsel did not attend the hearing.

Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams said the failure of DeSilva and his company to appear at the tribunal meant they were “hardly entitled to later complain” that they did not get a fair hearing.

Justice Subair Williams, supporting the decision of the tribunal, said “it is difficult to envisage what kind of evidence would have been available to the tribunal had they granted the appellant’s adjournment request.

“Equally, it appears that the tribunal was not given any indication by the appellants on the likely time frame needed to resume a hearing if the matter adjourned. Perhaps these are matters which might have been made clearer had the appellants and/or their counsel sensibly accepted the opportunity to appear before the tribunal in person to address the tribunal on their request.”

The judge said having relinquished the opportunity to appear, and having wilfully absented from the full hearing which followed, it is hardly open to the appellants to now complain that they were deprived of a fair hearing, based on an adjournment refusal.

DeSilva declined to comment on the matter but indicated that an appeal against the decision would be launched.

According to the written reasons, Island Construction fired the pair on April 27 last year on the grounds of serious misconduct, making accusations that one stole gas and received money for unworked hours, and the other acted dishonestly.

The tribunal held a hearing on December 4, 2018, and ruled they were wrongfully dismissed.

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