Secretary-Treasurer of the Waterfront and Allied Workers Union (WAWU), Kertiste Augustus, has taken head on, a challenge by Executive Director of the Dominica Employers’ Federation (DEF), Achille Chris Joseph, to make the law on redundancy as interpreted by Augustus, available to employers in Dominica.
In a statement delivered at a May Day rally, Augustus accused some prominent employers in Dominica of exploiting the law as it relates to redundancy.
“The provisions of the law have been set aside in one case, for whereas the law provides for six weeks layoff, that employer has issued to his staff six months notice of lay-off,” Augustus complained.
But Joseph objected and issued an open challenge to Augustus to make that law available to employers in Dominica claiming that he, Joseph, does not know of the existence of such law.
In response, Augustus told Dominica News Online (DNO) in an exclusive interview, that he is shocked, confused and disturbed that Joseph is “alarmed by WAWU branding employers as exploiters” and more so, that Joseph had challenged him regarding the provision of the law that speaks to 6 weeks layoff and the ability of the employees to claim redundancy after 6 weeks.
“This is where I am surprised and shocked, because Mr. Joseph ought to be aware of section 24 of the Protection of employment act which clearly states that employees who have been laid off in excess of 6 weeks can in fact claim redundancy and once they do that the employer is duty-bound to one of two things.”
He explained that employers have to pay the redundancy claim or alternatively, within a 4 weeks period, offer that employee employment to last for 13 consecutive weeks.
“If he does that and the employees still insist in being paid redundancy the employer may not comply with the redundancy payment,” Augustus added, “I would expect a person like Chris Joseph to be very much aware with the provision of the Act.”
Augustus stressed that he clearly stated that some employers are using Hurricane Maria as their shelter to carry out some of their actions which is “not consistent” with the law.
The WAWU official refuted Joseph’s claim that he did not hear of any union condemnation of the excessive looting that took place after the passage of Hurricane Maria stating, “Well it appears that once I go on radio, Mr. Joseph doesn’t hear those things.”
Augustus made it clear that he was complementary to the companies that he knew had done positive things for their staff following Hurricane Maria contrary to Joseph’s suggestion that he had heard nothing from the unions in that regard.
“So for Mr. Joseph to say that he didn’t hear, well I would have to say he wasn’t listening,” he argued.
Augustus pointed out that the positive things the employers do. the union highlights and the negative things, “we show it off.”
“That is our responsibility and our role,” he declared.