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Industrial Court orders firm to pay 6 former staff Outstanding salary arrears within 30 days

400 Wednesday 4th August 2021

His Lordship, Hon. Justice Polycarp Hamman of the Portharcourt Judicial division has ordered Olive Auto to pay her former staff, John Ediong, Kogbara Monday and 4 others the sum of N360,000.00 (Three Hundred and Sixty Thousand Naira) being the outstanding arrears of their salaries with the sum of N300, 000.00 (Three Hundred Thousand Naira) cost of action within 30 days.

The court held that the conduct of the firm by refusing to pay Mr. John Ediong and 5 others their remuneration and summarily terminating their employment is unlawful and a breach of their contract of employment.

From facts, the claimants- Mr. John Ediong and 5 others had jointly submitted that they worked for a period of four (4) months without any remuneration paid to them by the firm, and averred that a tripartite agreement was made in which the company paid them the partial sum with a promise to pay the balance of N360,000.00 that despite all efforts the firm has refused to pay the outstanding amount till date. 

In defense, the defendant - Olive Auto averred that while he complied with his obligations under the agreement by withdrawing the letter of compulsory leave and paid the claimants the sum of N200,000.00, that the Claimants reneged on the agreement and refused to report for work which made the company to lost some of its customers that due to the conduct of the claimants the defendant was unable to raise money to pay them their outstanding salaries. 

Submitting further, the firm counsel, C. O. Ekpen, Esq submitted that the claimants whose contracts of employment are distinct and personal to each of them do not have a collective right to take out a group action against the firm that the suit is therefore improperly constituted thereby depriving the court of the jurisdiction to determine same.

In addition, the learned counsel submitted that Mr. John Ediong and 5 others failed to plead the terms and conditions of their employment particularly as it relates to the mode of termination, and nowhere the sum of N360,000.00 was mentioned in the undertaking signed by the firm, urged the court to dismiss the suit for want of proof.

In opposition, the claimants’ counsel C. Nsirimovu, Esq. submitted that the suit is competent and the court has the jurisdiction to determine same, urged the court to grant the reliefs sought. 

Delivering the judgment after careful evaluation of the submission of both parties, the presiding judge, Justice Polycarp Hamman affirmed the competency of the suit and held that the essence of the provision of the Rules of the court is to forestall multiplicity of suits.

The Court held that Mr. John Ediong and 5 others have proved their case before the court and are entitled to the arrears of their salaries.

“I, therefore, have no hesitation in holding that from the evidence on record, the claimants have proved their case before the court and are entitled to the arrears of their salaries. Reliefs 1 and 2 are hereby granted only to the extent that the judgment sum shall attract post-judgment interest.” Justice Hamman

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