Categorized | Featured, Local, News

MDC Chaos – Termination of staff

In subsequent actions from a press release dated April 2, 2015, all staff of the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC) received ‘determined’ or termination letters by April 30, 2015 from Attorney at Law David S. Brandt acting on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer.

“Over the next six to eight weeks, the operations of the MDC will be wound up,” the release had said, advising also, “This means that all staff will have to be retrenched but will be paid gratuity in accordance with the terms of their contracts.”

Then on May 1, 2015, a release that sounded like the previous: “The Government of Montserrat (GoM) took a decision on April 2nd to close the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC) after the findings of the Task Force, which looked at operations and governance arrangements. This was immediately communicated to the Board and the staff of the MDC who were informed before the decision was made public. The Department for International Development (DFID) also indicated that its financial support to the MDC would cease at the end of May 2015.”

The release said further: “In winding up a company, there are a number of steps that must be taken according to the Companies Act. They include the engagement of Auditors to complete the auditing of all outstanding accounts to the end date of May 31, 2015, the appointment of a liquidator to deal with the assets, and the publication of the resolutions in the Official Gazette.

“The MDC also retained the services of Brandt and Associates to handle all of the many legal issues, including the termination of all staff Members of the MDC. Termination letters were delivered to Directors on April 29, 2015 and to all other staff on April 30, 2015. Each staff will be remunerated according to the terms of their contracts and where there are none, according to the Labour Code. All staff will receive their remuneration for the month of May 2015.”

It would appear however, according to qualified legal opinion, that not all of the decisions by the MDC Shareholder (Cabinet) met what was reported in the release or followed the Labour Code that it referred to.

TMR’s investigation into the terminations, notes:

When the final letters were issued by 4.15 p.m. on Thursday last week advising that with effect of that date and in accordance with their contract their employment was terminated, a scramble ensued. Officials from the Premier’s office on instruction met with select terminated members to inform them of efforts to subsume them into or back into the public service.

But, very senior staff members who had received emails of their ‘determined’ contracts were this week reportedly seeking legal advice. The Director of Infrastructure Sean McLaughlin had previously considered legal labour proceedings for constructive dismissal, while Anita Nightingale who was becoming well known for her heavy strides of forging the tourism face onwards, Director of Trade and Investment Promotion Ayiesha de Coteau-Sammy, they complained that while they had ‘heard’ of the impending closure of the MDC, they had never been formally informed. Their termination letters did not advise them of this either.

“For reasons unknown,” they said, they had never been invited to meetings where the information was passed on to the staff.

More than one legal mind has noted that the statement, “that during this week the necessary steps to finalize the closure were taken including immediate termination of staff contracts”; no reason stated in the termination letters; the absence of keeping within the Labour Code Act; the terminations and all that follow leave the MDC open to serious litigation which staff members can successfully initiate.

Just before press time, TMR learnt that terminated staff members have issued final checks, while preparations were being made to issue month to month contracts to some staff members .

 

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In subsequent actions from a press release dated April 2, 2015, all staff of the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC) received ‘determined’ or termination letters by April 30, 2015 from Attorney at Law David S. Brandt acting on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer.

“Over the next six to eight weeks, the operations of the MDC will be wound up,” the release had said, advising also, “This means that all staff will have to be retrenched but will be paid gratuity in accordance with the terms of their contracts.”

Then on May 1, 2015, a release that sounded like the previous: “The Government of Montserrat (GoM) took a decision on April 2nd to close the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC) after the findings of the Task Force, which looked at operations and governance arrangements. This was immediately communicated to the Board and the staff of the MDC who were informed before the decision was made public. The Department for International Development (DFID) also indicated that its financial support to the MDC would cease at the end of May 2015.”

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The release said further: “In winding up a company, there are a number of steps that must be taken according to the Companies Act. They include the engagement of Auditors to complete the auditing of all outstanding accounts to the end date of May 31, 2015, the appointment of a liquidator to deal with the assets, and the publication of the resolutions in the Official Gazette.

“The MDC also retained the services of Brandt and Associates to handle all of the many legal issues, including the termination of all staff Members of the MDC. Termination letters were delivered to Directors on April 29, 2015 and to all other staff on April 30, 2015. Each staff will be remunerated according to the terms of their contracts and where there are none, according to the Labour Code. All staff will receive their remuneration for the month of May 2015.”

It would appear however, according to qualified legal opinion, that not all of the decisions by the MDC Shareholder (Cabinet) met what was reported in the release or followed the Labour Code that it referred to.

TMR’s investigation into the terminations, notes:

When the final letters were issued by 4.15 p.m. on Thursday last week advising that with effect of that date and in accordance with their contract their employment was terminated, a scramble ensued. Officials from the Premier’s office on instruction met with select terminated members to inform them of efforts to subsume them into or back into the public service.

But, very senior staff members who had received emails of their ‘determined’ contracts were this week reportedly seeking legal advice. The Director of Infrastructure Sean McLaughlin had previously considered legal labour proceedings for constructive dismissal, while Anita Nightingale who was becoming well known for her heavy strides of forging the tourism face onwards, Director of Trade and Investment Promotion Ayiesha de Coteau-Sammy, they complained that while they had ‘heard’ of the impending closure of the MDC, they had never been formally informed. Their termination letters did not advise them of this either.

“For reasons unknown,” they said, they had never been invited to meetings where the information was passed on to the staff.

More than one legal mind has noted that the statement, “that during this week the necessary steps to finalize the closure were taken including immediate termination of staff contracts”; no reason stated in the termination letters; the absence of keeping within the Labour Code Act; the terminations and all that follow leave the MDC open to serious litigation which staff members can successfully initiate.

Just before press time, TMR learnt that terminated staff members have issued final checks, while preparations were being made to issue month to month contracts to some staff members .