Melanesian Spearhead Secretariat Sued For Breach Of Employment Contract

Deputy alleges Director General of unilaterally changing terms of employment for 15 staff 

By Thompson Marango

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Feb. 24, 2017) – A senior staff member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Secretariat is filing a claim against the institution and the Director General (DG), Amena Yauvoli for alleged breach of employment contract valued over Vt1 million [US$9,145].

Deputy Director General, Molean Kilepak filed the case on February 17 after the MSG Secretariat DG reportedly failed to comply with a summon from the Vanuatu Labour Department in relation to allegations of breach of contract filed by 15 staff members of the Secretariat.

Kilepak was one of three staff members who met with Labour to raise their grievances.

They represented 15 staff members in total who were affected by the changes in their contracts.

Filed on February 17, the claim is based on two main grounds, that the DG allegedly amended Kilepak’s contract resulting in a salary cut without consulting him, and that he was given a forced leave on a contract that the DG allegedly refuses to renew.

Daily Post was informed that the Acting DG is challenging the decision not to renew his contract and an assessment by his superior that his performance was not at a level where a renewal can be justified.

In a letter from Mr Kilepak to the DG, he challenges the decisions and informed of his intention to take the matter to court.

“... I was appointed on merit by a selection panel comprising senior Government Officials of member countries and have served the organization with distinction and pride,” Molean alleged in his letter to the DG.

He alleged further in his letter that the assessment on which the decision not to renew his contract was based on does not reflect the appraisals procedure.

Kilepak is seeking a total of 9 orders from the court.

“1. That the balance of the salary reduced be refunded effective 1st January 2017.

“2. That the current contract of employment be allowed to continue until its expiry on 25th March 2017.

“3. That the defendant follow the appropriate process to make any variations to the existing contract.

“4. That the claimant be allowed to attend work immediately and the leave days deducted as a result of the forced leave be reinstated.

“5. That the claimant be allowed immediately and the leave days deducted as a result of the forced leave be reinstated.

“6. That the defendant be refrained from interfering in any way with the claimant or any of the aggrieved staff during the course of conciliation proceedings under the trade Dispute Act.

“7. That the claimant be entitled to the full entitlements, including severance and VNPF entitlements, as assessed by the Court on the expiry of the contract.

“8. Damages to be assessed by the Court on the expiry of the contract.

“9. Any order as deemed appropriate.”

Meanwhile the Labour Department has analyzed the legal issues surrounding the alleged grievances and commented that the employer, MSG Secretariat, has breached the employment contracts of the 15 staff.

According to a document of the meeting between the staff representative and a conciliator of the Labour Department, the employees concerned “provided evidence” that the DG totally breached the Act and the employer needs to answer in writing to the conciliator to clarify the four main demands before the end of official hours on the Monday 20th of February 2017.

Daily Post attempted to get comments from the DG but was informed he is not in the country. Queries have also been sent to the Officer in Charge but no response was obtained.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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