A HIGH COURT judge will on August 15, rule on a breach of contract claim filed by a Mt Grace, Tobago, resident who, up to March 2015, was employed by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) as a hyperbaric facility manager.
Devon Peterkin sued the THA and the THRA for a little over $1 million representing a shortfall in salary, gratuity and the non-payment of a call-out allowance. Last Friday, Peterkin’s claim was heard at an in-person trial at the Tobago High Court presided over by Justice Frank Seepersad who reserved his decision to August 15.
In his claim for breach of contract, Peterkin, a 39 year old retired fire officer, alleged said he entered a written contract with the THA in January 2019 to serve as its facility manager/chamber operator at the Roxborough Hyperbaric Facility. He said it was agreed that he would be paid $5,802 and a transportation allowance of $1,500.
Peterkin said before he signed the contract, he was given a copy of a contract to review and approve. He said he expressed his dissatisfaction with the package which he considered inadequate considering the responsibilities and importance of a hyperbaric chamber manager.
Peterkin said he was told by a former assemblyman that the first 90 days of his contract would be probationary and upon expiration, the contract would be renewed. He said based on this promise, he signed the contract with the expectation that the contract would be reviewed after the probationary period.
Peterkin insisted he performed his duties satisfactorily, and when the probationary period was over, he unsuccessfully tried to speak to the assemblyman concerning the update to his remuneration package, including his on-call responsibilities. He said he was called out to work on an emergency during his vacation in December 2010.
When he came back from vacation, he again tried to talk to the administrator but said all his requests for a meeting were ignored and he was not paid for being called out during his vacation and other times he was also called out to work. When his first contract expired, he continued to work believing the promises made would be put in the new contract and he would receive back pay for the difference in salary he claimed he was owed.
By 2011, the hyperbaric facility was transferred to the TRHA and he was told the authority would handle his concerns. Peterkin said he was called out four times outside his working hours and when he was offered a new contract, it was the same as the old one.
He said he was again promised his concerns would be addressed and was asked to continue to work with his existing compensation package until the matter was sorted out since the TRHA did not want the facility to remain unmanned if he went on vacation or left the job.
In September 2014, after numerous chief executive officers and human resource officers for the TRHA changed, Peterkin said he refused to complete an emergency decompression treatment and was called by the then secretary for Health who gave him a verbal commitment that his contract would be amended.
Peterkin said he went ahead and successfully performed the treatment, and was then chastised for his earlier position. He said he continued working and again offered a new contract in 2015, but said he told the then CEO he would only be working from 8am-4 pm and will not respond to emergencies unless his contract was upgraded.
Peterkin was removed from the TRHA’s payroll at the end of March 2015, without notice, warning or explanation and worked the month without being paid while a new facility manager was hired.
Peterkin said he believe he was treated unfairly and was never adequately compensated for his services but was repeatedly deceived and mislead by both organisations. He is represented by attorney Deborah Moore-Miggins.