Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation (VBTC) is facing a Vt50 million claim by former staff after they filed a collective lawsuit for alleged breach of employment contract and unlawful termination.
Some of the employees also claimed that the broadcasting company failed to meet its redundancy package in time and made some unjustified dismissal with no employment entitlements.
Some allegeldy had their VNPF contribution paid in half with no child and housing allowances and they are now making the claim against their former employer.
Fourteen former members from all sections filed sworn statements yesterday with legal counsel, Less Napuati.
Mr Napuati alleged that the defendant failed to carry out its redundancy package within a period of 30 days or less in accordance with section 67 (1) of the Employment Act CAP 160.
He said the defendant failed to notify the Commissioner of Labour in writing about the execution of its proposed redundancy package as per section 67 of the Act.
“VBTC failed to receive a return notice from the commissioner requiring them to provide him other information as may be specified in the written notice of the Commissioner pursuant to section 67 of the Act,” he said.
“The claimants were not informed or aware of the details of the redundancy package.
“The claimants were never redundant but terminated unlawfully under the disguise of a notice of redundancy as issued by the defendant sometimes in May and June 2017.”
He said that the notice of redundancy contained a different redundancy package (different figure) as that contained in the letter of termination of the claimants’ contract with VBTC.
He said that they have not been paid their overtime entitlements and VNPF contributions as required under the VNPF Act.
This included non payment of housing allowances, wages, child allowances and traveling allowances, it was alleged.
The claimants’ legal counsel said that the action of terminating the claimants from their employment contract was unjust and unlawful and it was done in breach of the Employment Act – The VBTC’s staff manual and also in breach of the common law.
Mr Napuati said that VBTC failed to give adequate opportunity to the claimants to answer any charges amounting to serious misconduct if any or ask the claimants to respond, comment or to inquire about the redundancy package before they could be terminated under section 50 (4) of the Employment Act.
He said that the claimants are now relying on the provisions of the Employment Act, the common law and VBTC staff manual.
It was also claimed that the former staff suffered loss and damage due to their unlawful termination that led to their families suffereing emotional loss and psychological stress as well as general pain and sufferings.
Napuati said that they suffered amenities, distress, humiliations, social life and other general damages in which he refered to a precedent case of Vanuatu Maritime Authority (VMA) vs Bani Timaci.
He filed the claim that VBTC had to pay a multiplier of four for their severance pay under section 56 (4) of the Employment Act, VNPF, annual leaves, backdate wages, traveling and child allowances.
He said that amount is not limited to the total of their claims referred to in paragraph 8 of their claims.
The staff told Daily Post yesterday that VBTC’s management incapability of handling the biggest broadcasting company in Vanuatu led to its workers roaming the streets now.
They said that if Prime Minister Charlot Salwai wants a clean VBTC then he had to terminate the current acting management immediately with all team leaders who were alleged to be part of the VBTC breakdown.
They alleged that VBTC failed to keep proper record of the management that means there is no professionalism in that company.
Some of the claimants alleged that they have been receiving Vt7000 fortnightly while working for VBTC which is a government institution – a salary that is far below the minimum wage.
They said that VBTC has treated them so wrong in the past with some news presenters that have been recruited from FM 98 but never increased their salaries until they got their letters.
The unhappy staff are Obed Poita, Stephen Iatika, Stepson Reuben, Slone Fred, Bronwyn Olul, Christoph Crowby, Gail Paul, Samuel Taffo, Nicky Moliva, Horofino Morin, Pauline Timothy, Francois Aisav, David Joel Patunvanu and Albert Sam Gopendra Nath.