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Job Evaluation Case Awaits Judgment

Job Evaluation Case Awaits Judgment
July 25
12:50 2018

The judgment in a job evaluation case between the Fiji Teachers Union and Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts will be delivered on August 10 in the High Court.

Written submissions were filed before Justice Anjala Wati yesterday morning.

The Fiji Teachers Union took the ministry to court over the alleged demotion of some teachers from their positions.

But the ministry’s lawyer, Bhavna Narayan, yesterday applied for a strikeout because the FTU action was time barred.

She said the union members filed the action after the expiry of the required 21 days.

Ms Narayan said union members signed their contracts in August 2017, but the action was taken in May 2018.

She said because the action was related to a trade dispute under the Employment Relations Act 2007, the High Court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case.

She said the case should be called before the Arbitration Court.

Ms Narayan said during the job evaluation consultation exercise, the union was consulted and the members who signed their contracts had said they did so voluntarily.

She said after the signing of the new contracts, their old contracts did not exist.

Ms Narayan said the union’s application sought the creation of a new right for its members to be placed and paid under the new positions created after the job evaluation exercise, which was a dispute of interest.

She also questioned whether the case was of dispute of interest or dispute of right.

Ms Narayan said it was submitted that the FTU’s application did not disclose any reasonable cause of action and was otherwise an abuse of the court process.

FTU lawyer Damodaran Nair briefed the court on the various amendments to the employment law from 2010 to 2016.

He said the latest amendment in 2016 provided the status quo ante (previous state of affairs) in respect of the rights of workers to use the Employment Relations Act.

He told the court that the case was a dispute of right and as per the 2015 amendment done to the Employment Relations Act.

He said the FTU brought the case because the members were not consulted. He said the FTU had not reported any dispute of interest on the matter.

Mr Nair said they met the time limit to file the case within the 21 days from the date the advice from the Ministry of Civil Service was received that the renewal of contract in the civil service was automatic subject to good performance.

He told the court that some teachers were demoted from their position and then appointed to act in the same position after the job evaluation exercise without any reason given.

He told the court that the job evaluation addressed the teacher’s position and not the person.

Mr Nair also told the court that the job evaluation exercise found that some of the teachers were underpaid. Instead of getting a pay rise, they were demoted and then appointed to act on the same position again.

He also told the court that the law did not restrict the FTU to file a dispute of right to the court on behalf of its members.

According to the 2016 Amendment to the Employment Relations Act Section 3 (1), the promulgation applied to all employers and workers in workplace in Fiji, including the Government, other Government entities, local authorities, statutory authorities and the sugar industry.

In his conclusion, Mr Nair said the action filed by the defendant is in bad faith, vexatious, frivolous and an abuse of process that ought to be dismissed and the substantive action be determined on its merits in the interest of justice.

Edited by Epineri Vula

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