LUCELEC defends firing of employee

Andrea Vidal says she is not worried and that “God will take care of me.”

Andrea Vidal says she has been working with the St Lucia Electricity Company (LUCELEC) for over 25 years and has been a Seventh-Day Adventist for nineteen years. According to Vidal, she was asked to attend a company function on a Saturday—the day she keeps as her Sabbath according to the beliefs of her church. Vidal says she refused to attend the function and chose instead to attend church service on that day. She claims the company subsequently terminated her employment.
“I have been working with LUCELEC for a number of years, everyone knows that I am a Seventh-Day Adventist and they know I would never work on the Sabbath. I am just waiting on God to handle the situation for me. I am not worried because I know my God will take care of me,” said Vidal.
The senior accountant says she is overwhelmed with support from many of the staff she worked with.
On Wednesday this week, workers at LUCELEC held a service at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Castries to show support for their longtime colleague. While most workers refused to comment on the matter, one did hint that the matter is being discussed between the Union and LUCELEC.
Earlier in the week, news reports churned around Vidal while painting a ‘religious victimization’ image of LUCELEC. The company at first refused interviews with the media stating it was disappointed with the manner in which the story was carried. The company claims all the facts were not gathered in the matter before such reports were made. Mounting pressure from the media and public has since prompted the company to release a statement providing its side of the story.
The press release came in early Thursday morning through its Corporate Communications Manager who sought to address what had become the ‘hot button issue’ on at least one local talk show and newscast.
The island’s only power company defended accusations of dismissing one of its managers over her refusal to work on the Sabbath.
LUCELEC defended its action; characterizing itself as “an equal opportunity employer who never has and will never engage in discriminatory practices, least of all those that impugn the constitutional rights of employees.”
However, the Union that represents the dismissed employee is claiming just that—accusing the company of violating Section 267, subsection 1 of the Labour Code.
The matter is also said to be before the Labour Commissioner.
LUCELEC says its decision to terminate the employment of the employee was purely related to a breach of the terms of her contract of employment, her refusal to work when requested to do so, and after all efforts to have her comply were exhausted.
According to reports, the senior accountant was needed to oversee aspects of a ten million dollar project which is being implemented by the company.
The company also made reference to its responsibilities as an essential service pursuant to the Essential Services Act. LUCELEC also explained its hiring process stating equal opportunity and fairness is assured in its contracts; that the company does not vary those to accommodate any one person or group and further all offers of employment are free to be accepted or rejected by all.
The dismissed employee, the company states, accepted the terms of employment and then subsequently refused to abide by these terms.

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