Pyne Gould gets halt on ERA payment

MARTA STEEMAN
Last updated 11:25 23/12/2013

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Investment firm Pyne Gould Corporation has won a stay on paying a former senior executive James West almost $119,000, while it challenges a decision it unjustifiably dismissed him, but there are conditions attached.

The Employment Court, in an interlocutory judgment, has ordered PGC to pay West, its former financial controller, $22,065.55, holiday pay and interest, but the rest of the money is to be held in a trust.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) earlier this year ruled that West was unjustifiably dismissed by PGC. The ERA awarded him remedies totalling more than $150,000, for lost pay and compensation, including $140,954.69 in payments.

The Employment Court this month ordered the holiday payment, to be made by December 12, and that the remaining $118,889.14 of payment together with interest earned is to be held in trust by PGC pending the outcome of its challenge to the ERA decision.

West, on a salary of $225,000 a year, was employed by PGC until April 16 last year. He was sacked for bonuses he paid to himself and other executives. The ERA ruled West was not entitled to a bonus of $140,000.

The bonus had been paid on March 29 last year and then recovered by PGC whose board said the payment was not properly authorised.

Following that West raised two personal grievances - that he had been unjustifiably dismissed and that he had been unjustifiably disadvantaged before his dismissal in relation to the disestablishment of his position.

He also sought payment of a bonus that he claimed he was entitled to.

The ERA upheld the dismissal grievance.

PGC's main argument to the Employment Court for the stay of executing the remedies ordered by ERA was that West might not be able to repay the money if its challenge was successful.

West opposed the stay mainly on the grounds that it was a delaying tactic by PGC "motivated by personal animosity towards him".

"He deposes to there having been extensive delay in the authority's investigation as a result of the plaintiff's failure to comply with orders in a timely manner." the court judgment said.

In reply to the question over his ability to repay if PGC was successful in its challenge, West said he had substantial assets and an income of $180,000 a year.

The Employment Court said PGC had a weak case supported only by the subjective and generalised view of company chairman Bryan Mogridge. However West was amenable to a stay on terms.

In the interests of justice the court said it would grant a stay but on different terms to those suggested by the parties.

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