GREAT BAY – Utilities Company Gebe is allowed to immediately terminate the labor contract of a former supervisor accounts payable because the woman reached retirement age some time ago. The Court in First Instance ruled in favor of Gebe, saying that in the local community and within Gebe in particular, reaching retirement age is considered a lawful reason to terminate a labor contract.
The employee, born on October 18, 1956, started working for Gebe on January 1, 1990. The contract does not include an article about dismissal at retirement age. Until December 2016, the woman worked as supervisor accounts payable. Afterwards she was put in a different function under the same conditions.
Already on January 4, 2016, Gebe informed its employee that she would reach retirement age that year and that this meant her contract would end. The company offered two options: dismissal per November 1 or per December 31. The employee refused to go into retirement and turned down both offers.
On December 29, 2016, the Court in First Instance ordered Gebe to continue paying the employee’s salary The company had argued that the collective labor agreement for Gebe employees stipulates that contracts end at retirement age. But the court noted that the employee was not a union-member and therefore not bound by the collective labor agreement.
On January 4 of this year Gebe submitted a request to dismiss the employee. But the Dismissal Committee advised against it and the secretary-general of the ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor denied the request on March 23.
Gebe then went to court with a request to end the contract. The employee contested that there is an important reason to dismiss her.
The court referred to the so-called Codfried-arrest (January 13, 1995); this ruling states that reaching retirement age is a valid reason for ending a contract. The Op ‘t Land arrest (November 11, 2002) confirms this legal point of view.
Gebe’s attorney Jelmer Snow substantiated the position that there is broad support for dismissal at retirement age in St. Maarten and that this is common practice.
The court denied the employee any compensation, saying that she has been receiving for quite some time a company pension and AOW – the old age pension.
Photo caption: GEBE main office in Philipsburg after hurricane Irma passed through. Photo by TODAY photo journalist Milton Pieters.