Labour Minister Vincent Wheatley gave this warning against the backdrop of reports that an unspecified group of BVIslanders and Belongers were recently made redundant by a company that may be on the verge of merging with another.
Speaking in the House of Assembly on Thursday, Wheatley said the method of selecting employees for redundancy must be transparent and fair. As an example, he said persons may be selected for redundancy as a result of a previous disciplinary record, length of service, or any other unbiased criteria.
“The unbiased criteria should not be that the employees are Virgin Islanders or Belongers as such actions may render the redundancies to be considered unfair dismissal. Additionally, it is unlawful to terminate the employment of a suitably qualified BVIslander or Belonger in favour of an expatriate employee,” the minister stated.
Minister Wheatley further advised that employers are required to inform the Labour Commissioner of any redundancies at least one month before the termination; especially in situations where three or more employees are being terminated.
He said the aforementioned company in process of merging has not given the Labour Department any official notice of redundancies to date.
However, he said his ministry will be monitoring that company closely going forward.
“I want all organisation, especially the one that I referenced, to take note that if it becomes necessary within six months following the termination process for that organisation to hire employees to perform the same duties from which the employers were removed, that the employer is obligated to give first preference and rehire the redundant employees,” Wheatley stated.
He also reminded employers that workers who have been employed at an organisation for 12 months or more are entitled to severance pay if they are made redundant.