Appeal against S.R.U. coach sacking dismissed
A court appeal filed by the now Chief Justice of Samoa, His Honour Satiu Simativa Perese, on behalf of axed former Manu Samoa head coach, Fuimaono Dick Tafua, against the Samoa Rugby Union has been dismissed.
In a ruling published on Thursday, the Appeals Court ruled that the S.R.U. was within its rights under the law to terminate the former coach’s contract.
But the court did find Tafua was obliged to pay court costs to the amount of $5,000. The appellant, Tafua, was engaged by the S.R.U. as the head coach of the national team on 17 May 2018. But just months later, by 24 September, Tafua received written notice that his contract would be terminated with one month’s notice.
At that stage Tafua had already completed a probation period of three months for the position, which included a salary of $125,000 and was due to conclude the contract in late November 2019.
But before his elevation to the position of Samoa’s top jurist, His Honour Satiu Simativa Perese, represented Tafua in a legal challenge to a decision made by the Supreme Court in June last year upholding the right of the S.R.U. to terminate Tafua’s contract.
The Supreme Court found the S.R.U. was within its rights legally to bring the coach’s contract to an end - and that due notice had been provided.
An appeal against that decision was presided over by Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, Justice Robert Lloyd Fisher Q.C. and Justice The Right Honourable Sir Peter Blanchard.
Justices Fisher and Blanchard – who is a member of the New Zealand Privy Council – appeared via video link for the proceeding.
At issue in the case was whether the notice of termination served to Tafua was valid in accordance with Part VIII of the Labour and Employment Relations Act 2013.
The legislation states that a “contract of service” as deﬁned in section 2 of the Act “may be terminated in accordance with provisions [of the act]”.
It was accepted that Tafua’s agreement constituted a contract of service.
Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren in her original ruling on the matter last June found that the definition of the word “may” in Section 52 of the Act was “discretionary”. She described Part VIII of the Act as “a catch all part in the event that a contract had not speciﬁcally dealt with termination or if contracting parties wished for those provisions to apply”.
Ultimately the Appellate Court Judges on Thursday echoed that interpretation of the law and found that there could be no reason why Tafua’s contract could not be terminated, under the Labour and Employment Relations Act after required notice was given.
“There is no reason that we can see why it should not then add a provision under which that continuous contract will come to an end without notice being given on a specified date,” the Appellate Court wrote.
“It would make no sense to strike down such an arrangement by not allowing notice to be given under section 54(2).”
“There is no reason that we can see why it should not then add a provision under which that continuous contract will come to an end without notice being given on a speciﬁed date.
“It would make no sense to strike down such an arrangement by not allowing notice to be given under section 54(2)” which says whether either party to a contract of service wishes to terminate a contract of service,” the Judges writes.
After his initial firing, Tafua received a payout from the S.R.U. equal to the notice period.
* This story has been amended to correct the court's decision regarding costs.