NATION

Tribunal Can Rule on Grievances: Magistrate

  The Employment Relations Tribunal (ERT) has ruled that it has powers to hear grievance cases. Resident Magistrate Andrew J See made the ruling in the case of Reshmi Mala
03 Feb 2017 11:00
Tribunal Can Rule on  Grievances: Magistrate
Damodaran Nair

 

The Employment Relations Tribunal (ERT) has ruled that it has powers to hear grievance cases.

Resident Magistrate Andrew J See made the ruling in the case of Reshmi Mala Shiromani.

The school teacher had taken her case to the tribunal, after the Ministry of Education demoted her, issued a final warning and transferred her to another school. Damodaran Nair acting on behalf of Ms Shiromani said this was a matter that could be resolved within the powers conferred to this Tribunal by virtue of Section 188 of the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007.

Alvin Prakash,  from the Attorney-General’s Office representing the ministry, on the other hand, believes that the matter was best addressed through a recently created Civil Service Reform Management Unit (“CSRMU”), that appeared to have been established within the Ministry of Economy.

Magistrate See noted that this Tribunal, the combined effect of the promulgation of the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji in 2013, together with the passing of the Public Service (Amendment) Act 2016, had given rise to a re-distribution of responsibilities in the management of public sector disciplinary issues.

“The Tribunal notes that the new statutory framework has provided for the establishment of a Civil Service Ministry. Greater autonomy to Permanent Secretaries to take disciplinary action against staff and a ‘paring back’ of the previous responsibilities given to the Public Service Commission in such matters.

“While the preliminary view of the Tribunal was that the matter may be one better dealt with by the Public Service Disciplinary Tribunal, upon further analysis, that view does not appear to be supported by the new statutory framework.”

Magistrate See said by way of observation only, there were two critical issues that appeared to exist in the case of workers of Government when seeking to avail of this process.

The first is that they have a time window of 21 days for bringing grievances to the Tribunal. Secondly, once they have done so, such action shall prevent any other alternative right being agitated or claimed in another court, tribunal or commission.

“Based on the submissions of the parties and upon a further analysis of the laws, the Tribunal is of the view that it does have the power to deal with the grievance before it.

“The grievance arises out of disciplinary action taken by the Employer, where the Worker was demoted, issued with a final warning and transferred to another school. Those matters would all be captured within paragraph (e) of the definition of “employment grievance” as set out within Section 185 of the Promulgation.

“Such an approach is consistent with Section 188(4) of the Promulgation, providing that a grievance is lodged or filed within the 21 day window. An examination of the Form 1 initially filed by the Worker, supports the fact that the grievance had been initially lodged within time.”

Magistrate See said the matter would be relisted for mention before the Tribunal on  February 10 at 9am.

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra

Feedback: jessica.gounder@fijisun.com.fj

 

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