By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THIRTY former Gaming Board employees are seeking $2m in damages for their dismissal from the government agency last year, their attorney said on Friday.
Wayne Munroe, QC, told The Tribune his clients will seek $2.7m in exemplary damages, an amount he claimed matched the sum the agency claimed it saved by dismissiing his clients.
Mr Munroe also said his clients, the plaintiffs in the action, will be seeking 18 months pay for each former line staff and 24 months pay for each former manager the Supreme Court decides not to order reinstatement at the Gaming Board.
And if the court does decide to order reinstatement, Mr Munroe said his clients will still be seeking damages.
However, he said the aforementioned issues will be determined at trial on August 28 and 29, which the adjudicator, Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles, has dedicated some of her vacation time to preside over.
Mr Munroe’s comments came following a hearing before Justice Charles concerning the former employees’ bid to compel the Gaming Board to reinstate them to the positions they formerly held at the government agency.
The Tribune was unable to physically attend Friday’s hearing as the court room was completely filled due to the attendance of the various plaintiffs.
However, Mr Munroe told The Tribune following the hearing the respondents in the matter contend the disengagement of the 30 former employees was termination without notice.
However, he said the respondents admitted they did not follow the procedures as mandated in the recently amended Employment Act when they disengaged the workers.
Notwithstanding that, Mr Munroe said his clients are contending their disengagement was a redundancy exercise, based on the definition of “redundancy” outlined in the amended Employment Act.
“The issue will be this: you can terminate someone for cause in which case you don’t have to pay them anything, so if you thieve or something like that, they’ll terminate you for cause,” he said. “Or you can terminate them without cause, in which case you have to pay them. So when you make someone redundant, you are terminating them without cause.
“If you were to look at the Employment Act of 2017 in the new section 26, it defines what redundancy is. So here we said where the chairman of the Gaming Board has said because they’re moving to more technology, basically saying these workers don’t fit their needs anymore, we say that amounts to redundancy.
“Then there are certain procedures you have to take if you’re making someone redundant, or planning to.”
Thus, Mr Munroe said the upcoming trial will largely be over whether or not the Gaming Board broke the law in disengaging the services of his clients, and whether it was a redundancy exercise.
According to a writ filed by Mr Munroe’s chambers on December 22, 2017, the Gaming Board, its “servants and/or agents” dismissed the 30 plaintiffs from the agency, via termination letters dated November 1, 2017 to December 13, 2017, purportedly on the grounds of redundancy.
However, the plaintiffs contend that in doing so, the Gaming Board “failed and/or refused to comply with the procedures required by Section 26A of the Employment Act, 2001, as well as Articles 25, 36 and 40 of the collective bargaining agreement between the Gaming Board and the Bahamas Public Services Union, dated January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2015.
As a result, the plaintiffs are seeking damages for wrongful dismissal, exemplary damages, interest, costs and other relief the court deems just.
The plaintiffs in the action are Kayla Ward, Jean Minus, Marva Heastie, Hope Miller, Dwaynel Archer, Barbara Adderley, Antonique Brown, Donald Nougez, Jennifer Russell, Genese Musgrove, Meresha Walkes, Patricia Johnson, Lakera Cash, Jacqueline Duncombe, Lataj Henfield, Nickie McPhee, Warren Neymour, Teneille Mackey, Carolee Munnings, Inga Brown, Chantique Brown, Tanzinia Carey, Lisa Pratt, Kirmica Stuart, Sherry Roberts, Julia Thompson, John McDonald, Doddridge Missick, Mitchell Ferguson and Herbert Duncombe.
Last year, Gaming Board Chairman Kenyatta Gibson said the terminations, which followed the earlier release of 17 persons whose temporary contracts had expired, came following the completion of a manpower assessment of the overstaffed agency.
At the time, Mr Gibson said over the past four years, staffing levels at the Gaming Board had increased by 40 percent. He also said the regulator was focused on hiring persons with the skill sets to property supervise the sector.