Fired safety officer wins in Industrial Court

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VICTORIOUS: Clint Attong outside the Industrial Court in Port of Spain. –

A SAFETY officer has been awarded compensation by the Industrial Court for his “harsh and oppressive” dismissal from the job by Junior Sammy Contractors Ltd (JSCL) in 2018.

The contractor has until July 29, to pay Clint Attong the sum ordered by the court’s members Azeem Mohammed, Bindimattie Mahabir, and Jillian Bartlett-Alleyne.

Attong has asked that the sum awarded by the court not be published for fear of him becoming a target for criminal elements.

Attong’s complaint was referred to the court by the Ministry of Labour in September 2019, after failed attempts at conciliation between the contractor and the Amalgamated Workers Union which argued the case for him.

In their ruling, the Industrial Court members said this was not a situation where a company’s procedure in disciplining or termination of a worker was flawed but was a situation where the company simply “failed to adhere to any procedure with an underlying appreciation for the care and continued well-being of the worker in its employ.”

They said clear, proper protocol was not followed before dismissing him before finding that his employment was terminated summarily without any known reason or without an opportunity to be heard. They also said it was harsh, oppressive, and contrary to good industrial relations practices.

The company did not make representations in court or provide evidence before judgment was delivered.

Attong was employed with JSCL from mid-June 2017 and said he completed three-month probation until January when he learned he was replaced by another safety officer on a job site.

He said he sought official clarification of his employment status but never received a response from the company.

He then sought advice from the union and the ministry before the dispute was referred to the court.

The judgment said the union invited the company to meet for discussions and that did not take place until the matter to the ministry as a trade dispute but, to date, it has not given him a letter of complaint, a termination notice, or any correspondence.

The union also argued that at no point did the company say Attong’s job was temporary, fixed-term, or project-based.

“Here stands a worker who presents himself to the court simply as having been abandoned by his employer.

“He was displaced from his place of employment without explanation. Absolutely no reasons were given to him for his separation from the company and no responses were forthcoming dispute his many attempts to get clarity on why he was no longer employed with the company,” the court said.

The members also noted that even in the face of industrial action, the company saw it fit to remain silent and allow the proverbial “chips to fall where they may.”

The judgment said, “The results of this company’s action was not only foul of the Industrial Relations Act and the concept of good industrial relations practice but placed the worker in such a depressed position that not only could he not find suitable similar employment within his specialised field by was subjected, according to him, to emotional and mental anguish, a direct result of action or inaction of his employers.”

Attong told the court with his employment having been severed from a company of such high stature, he found it difficult to get work after and his dismissal affected his name and reputation.

The judgement noted that Attong said he felt blacklisted as a worker who, using legal means, would take up arms against an employer because he chose to take the matter to court.

This is the third time in as many years that Attong has been successful in litigation. In 2020, the State was ordered to compensate him because a police officer failed to conduct proper investigations before laying charges of larceny and intent to defraud after two women alleged he stole $11,000 from them and threatened their lives.

In 2019, he was also successful in an assault and battery and false imprisonment claim against the State after police kidnapped, robbed and beat him.

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