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The court has exclusive jurisdiction in civil causes and matters relating to or connected with any labour, employment, trade unions, industrial relations and matters arising from workplace, the conditions of service, including health, safety, welfare of labour, employee, worker and matter incidental thereto or connected therewith.

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Industrial Court faults Tony’s employment termination, awards payment of 2 years’ Salary against firm as damages


1056 Tuesday 31st October 2023

Hon. Justice Polycarp Hamman of the Portharcourt Judicial Division has declared the termination of Mr. Okolo Tony’s contract of employment by payment of purported terminal benefits without regard to the condition of service as wrongful and offensive to international best practice.


Justice Polycarp declared that Global Manpower Ltd’s failure to recall Mr. Tony to its employment while he was waiting for redeployment without payment of his monthly salaries and allowances from October 9, 2015, to 31st July 2018 amounts to a breach of contract, and ordered the firm to pay Mr. Tony the sum of N1,809,300.00 equivalent to 2 years’ salary as general damages and N50,000.00 cost of action within 30 days.


From facts, the Claimant- Mr. Okolo Tony had pleaded that he was employed by Global Manpower Ltd as a sales canvasser and was on secondment to Globacom Nigeria Ltd and posted to Bayelsa State without any transfer allowance paid to him. 


He submitted that Global Manpower Ltd failed to provide him with work all through the time he was asked to wait for redeployment and was not paid salaries for all the months he was asked to wait as he remained the Global Manpower Ltd staff because his appointment was not terminated all through the period of waiting. 


He further averred that while waiting for redeployment or to be declared redundant, he received a notification alert payment of N230,609.99 into his salary account titled terminal benefits, signifying that the appointment was just terminated the same day 31st July, 2018 as there was no other termination letter or payment of salary in lieu preceding the said date.


In defence, the 1st Defendant- Global Manpower Ltd averred that since the 2nd Defendant- Globacom Nigeria Ltd declined Mr. Tony's services, he chose to abandon his employment and failed to report to the firm for three (3) days without leave or approval thereby invoking the provisions of the Contract of employment. 


Global Manpower Ltd pleaded further that, Mr. Tony filed the same action against the firms in 2016 at the Owerri Division of the Court and in pursuant of settlement talks, the payment of the sum of N230,609.99 was made to Mr. Tony, and the case was abandoned by the Claimant and same was struck out by the court for want of diligent prosecution on the 1st of November, 2019, urged the court to dismiss the case for being an abuse of court process.


In opposition, counsel to Mr. Tony argued that since the suit at Owerri was struck out, he had the option of either applying to relist same or file a fresh suit, and submitted that Global Manpower Ltd has the duty to provide work for his client, but where the employer fails to provide work, it is under obligation to pay salaries to the employee, and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought in the interest of justice.


In a well-considered judgment, the presiding Judge, Justice Polycarp Hamman held that there is nothing before the Court to indicate that the payment to Mr. Tony was as a result of any settlement, that if the said payment was made pursuant to any settlement, what was expected was for the parties to file terms of settlement for adoption by the court. 


The Court stated that the conduct of Global Manpower Ltd and Globacom Nigeria Ltd in terminating the employment of Mr. Tony and paying entitlements after a period of more than 3 years is what the law frowns at, and ruled that the company failed to comply strictly with Mr Tony's Contract of employment.


Justice Polycarp held that it is the duty of Global Manpower Ltd to provide work for Tony while in its employment and failure of the firm to provide the same cannot deprive him of the payment of his monthly salaries/entitlement except where he was declared redundant by the Global Manpower Ltd.


The Court further held that if Mr. Tony's services were no longer required as indicated, all Globacom Nigeria Ltd needed to do was to address the letter to Global Manpower Ltd who would then recall the Claimant and post or deploy him to another organization. 

 

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