FORMER FINANCE MINISTER TAKES FIGHT TO EOC
When Nicole Olivierre, the current parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Energy, was retrenched as an assistant manager from the National Gas Company (NGC) in January 2015, “she presented herself to the office without authorisation, deceptively went past security, entered her department and made use of the computer”, NGC told the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC).
Olivierre, however, claimed that during the “notice period” of her retrenchment she went to the office to process her fuel reimbursement claims and was met by security guards who asked her to leave the compound.
“During the retrenchment period of 45 days (Olivierre) was of the view that the terms and conditions of employment remained unchanged, inclusive of the reimbursement of fuel purchase for her vehicle,” the EOC’s report on the matter stated.
On April 16, 2015, Olivierre lodged a complaint of victimisation against NGC with the EOC. It was the second complaint she had filed at the EOC about NGC—the first was lodged on December 13, 2012, when she complained about racial discrimination at the company. That complaint was referred to the Equal Opportunities Tribunal on June 7, 2015.
Olivierre was employed with NGC from 2002 until her eventual retrenchment. She claimed that following her initial complaint of racial discrimination she became “the subject of acts of victimisation contrary to Section 6 (1) of the Equal Opportunity Act”.
She said she believes she was victimised because of the previous complaint made against NGC and this culminated in her retrenchment.
She further stated that her position of assistant manager enterprise risk management was the only one “eliminated from the company’s risk management area” and that no other position “was even retrenched from the NGC,” the EOC complaint stated.
Olivierre said three departments—Insurance and Risk Management, Environment, Health and Safety, and Enterprise Risk Management—were merged and all existing positions were maintained except hers.
She said she was never advised of the new positions created, nor was she offered an alternative position, despite a new positions being created within the department.
“Further to this there was no other identified individual that was retrenched within the department, nor any information regarding efforts made to find any suitable alternative position for Olivierre,” the complaint stated.
NGC said the positions of head risk management and risk management assistant were eliminated. However. according to the EOC: “They did not indicate whether there were persons in these positions at the time, and if they were, whether they were accommodated elsewhere.”
NGC said Olivierre applied for a new management position in the organisation’s structure but was unsuccessful.
The company said one of the reasons for creation of the new position and Olivierre’s job becoming redundant was because her risk reports “did not assign accurately the respective level of risk and that further expertise was required”.
“Despite a request from the commission, (NGC) did not indicate in what way her reports were defective,” the EOC said.
As part of her claims of victimisation, Olivierre said when she was acting as senior manager in the Office of Strategy Management she submitted the second-quarter risk report but then NGC president Indar Maharaj did not allow it to go to the audit committee.
NGC said it would make a May 2014 risk report done by Olivierre available to the EOC for viewing but later “changed their position and said that they had decided that the report and its contents do not concern the allegations made by (Olivierre),” the EOC said.
NGC claimed it was being threatened by the EOC.
“At no point did the commission threaten NGC as they have asserted. The commission’s request for information has been in pursuant to Section 33 of the Equal Opportunity Act which empowers it to send a notice to any person requesting that they furnish information as specified therein by a given date,” the EOC said.
The matter has been referred to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal.
“Much of the disputes are questions of fact, the commission is not in the position to engage in cross examination of parties, weigh evidence or make findings of facts, these are matters for the Equal Opportunity Tribunal,” the EOC said, adding that the matter could not be resolved by conciliation as there are “significant variances between the parties”.
“Moreover the parties are already before the court, their swords are drawn and they are currently engaged in battle,” the EOC said.
Olivierre had indicated her desire for the complaints to be brought before the tribunal, the EOC said. The investigation is ongoing.
Olivierre served as the Minister of Energy from September 11, 2015, to October 30, 2016. She was appointed parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries on June 30, 2017.