Commissioner of Labour Clarifies Public Holidays, Business Houses Closure

Labour Commissioner Murielle Meltenoven. Photo: File| Adorina Massing

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Internal Affairs, responsible for Employment Services, Ishmael Kalsakau, has this week instructed for all business houses to be closed to commemorate the 40th Anniversary Celebrations, from 23rd July to 29th July 2020.

This is in line with the official declaration of public holidays by the Head of State, Obed Moses Tallis.

The official declaration of the public holidays states that the public holidays start on 23rd July to 29th July 2020 which is a total of five extra days added to existing holidays on Vanuatu’s calendar.

This has caused concern amongst the private sector companies, especially that the Deputy Prime Minister, through the Commissioner of Labour, Murielle Meltenoven, called on the private sector businesses to be closed.

The Daily Post sought clarification from the Commissioner of Labour, who provides clarification on the issue.

“Further to the official declaration of Public Holiday by President Obed Moses Tallis, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Internal Affairs and Employment Affairs across the country has instructed that all business houses are to be closed to commemorate the 40 years Anniversary Celebrations from 23rd July to 29th July 2020.

“Exceptions are only given to all essential services to operate but any other businesses that wishes to operate must justify in writing to the Commissioner of Labour with their reasons for operating during this period as alluded under section 23 (2) (h) of the Employment Act. Please send your request to Department of Labour and Employment Services before Tuesday 21st July 2020 so we can assess your request and respond back to you on time.

“All businesses and companies are advised to refer to the following Acts while we observe and comply with the official declaration of Public Holiday effective from 23rd July to 31st July 2020.

TRADE DISPUTE PART 4 - TRADE DISPUTES AFFECTING ESSENTIAL SERVICES

25. Definition of “essential service”

In this Part the expression “essential services” means -

(a) any of the following services or facilities ordinarily available to the public -

(i) air traffic control;

(ii) firefighting;

(iii) generation and supply of electricity;

(iv) health and sanitary services; lighthouses or other navigational safety devices;

(vi) meteorological services;

(vii) rescue services (land, sea and air);

(viii) postal and telecommunication services;

(ix) water and sewerage;

(b) any activity concerned with supplying anything necessary for maintaining any service or facility specified in paragraph (a);

(c) any other service, facility or activity declared by the Minister by Order to be an essential service for the purposes of this Part.

EMPLOYMENT ACT CHAPTER 160 SECTION 23 SUBSECTION (2) & (3):

23. Work on public holidays

(1) Except where he voluntarily undertakes so to do, no employee shall be required to work on a Sunday or public holiday.

(2) Subsection (l ) shall not apply in relation to persons employed in —

(a) undertakings engaged in the transport of passengers or goods by road, sea or air, including the handling of passengers or goods at docks, quays, wharves, warehouses or airports;

(b) undertakings of public utility including provision of water or gas, generation or supply of electricity, postal and telecommunication services, sewerage and similar services;

(c) hotels, guest houses, bars, restaurants, clubs and similar establishments;

(d) theatres and places of public amusement;

(e) establishments for the treatment and care of the sick, infirm, destitute or mentally unfit;

(f) newspaper and radio broadcasting undertakings;

(g) animal husbandry;

(h) any other work approved, on the application of an employer, by a Labour officer for the purpose of this subsection, having regard to the requirements of the proper management of the undertaking and the convenience of the public.

(3) An employee working on a Sunday or public holiday_ in pursuance of subsection (2) shall be granted an equivalent period of time off work on another day.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS CHAPTER 114

5. Compulsory closing of stores by order

The President may by Order from time to time direct that all stores and other places of business throughout Vanuatu or in any one or more of such places as may be stated in the Order shall be and remain closed upon any public holiday.

6. Penalty for keeping open store

When an Order is made under section 5 it shall be unlawful for any person to keep open any store, shop or other place of business other than a hotel in any of the places named in such order or to sell or cause to be sold in any such store, shop or other place of business any goods or articles whatsoever.

Any person who contravenes the provisions of this section shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding VT5,000 and in default of payment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 1 month.

7. Exemptions

Section 6 shall not apply to -

(a) the sale of any drugs or medicines;

(b) the sale of bread, butter, fresh milk, fresh meat, fresh fish and ice not later than noon;

(c) the sale of refreshments in any places where refreshments are habitually sold for consumption on the premises.

Anyone who wants further clarification on this issue can contact the Department of Labour and Employment Services on 33130 or email mmetsan@vanuatu.gov.vu or williej@vanuatu.gov.vu

Commissioner Meltenoven reiterated that exceptions are only given to all essential services to operate but any other businesses that wishes to operate must justify in writing to the Commissioner of Labour with their reasons for operating during this period as alluded under section 23(2)(h) of the Employment Act.

The request must be sent to the Department of Labour and Employment Services before Tuesday 21st July 2020 so the request can be assessed and a response is made on time.

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