Worker, FEA Face Tribunal Over Termination

A worker who was terminated by Fiji Electricity Authority for allegedly performing private jobs has challenged his dismissal. It was alleged that the incident happened during Tropical Cyclone Winston rehabilitation.
02 Apr 2017 11:00
Worker, FEA Face Tribunal Over Termination
Damodaran Nair (left) with Noneel Prasad outside the Tribunal yesterday. Photo: Ronald Kumar

A worker who was terminated by Fiji Electricity Authority for allegedly performing private jobs has challenged his dismissal.

It was alleged that the incident happened during Tropical Cyclone Winston rehabilitation.

During the hearing in Suva before the Employment Relations Tribunal Magistrate Andrew See yesterday, FEA chief executive officer, Hasmukh Patel, said FEA had prioritised the areas of work during the rehabilitation period of TC Winston recovery.

Noneel Prasad, 35, of Suva who allegedly performed private residential works at Shalen Chand’s residence in Rakiraki without an authorisation on April 30, 2016, claimed the termination was unjustified.

Yvonne Fatiaki, FEA lawyer, called Mr Patel as her first witness.

Mr Patel told the tribunal that during the recovery period, working at residential addresses was not authorised by FEA.

He said that while on his way to Rakiraki where the FEA team was working, he spotted the FEA vehicle parked at Mr Chand’s residence and a casual employer working on the customer’s power post.

He told the tribunal that he then proceeded to check on the workers and was told that they were given directive by their live line co-ordinator, Shymal Bhan, to carry out repairs.

Mr Patel said he then ordered the workers to leave the premises and join the team further down the road.

During cross-examination, the applicant’s representative, Damodaran Nair, said when the Prime Minister declared Fiji a national disaster area, he had given the directive to FEA personnel to work 24/7 and restore electricity.

Mr Patel told the tribunal that he was not given such directive as the only directive he received from the PM was to restore electricity back, especially to PAFCO in Levuka.

He said he also got directive from the Attorney-General to restore electricity back at Denarau in Nadi because of the tourism sector and was told to work according to the power restoration plan that FEA had made.

Ms Fatiaki’s second witness, FEA general manager for networking, Jitendra Kumar, said they employed more than a hundred casual employees to carry out the restoration works around the country.

During cross-examination, he told the tribunal that the workers were not instructed to work at residential addresses as the customers were responsible for their properties.

Mr Kumar said all the restoration and repairs were supposed to be carried out according to FEA’s cyclone action plan.

Ms Fatiaki’s third witness, Mr Patel’s driver, Mukesh Chand, while under cross-examination, told the tribunal that he did not hear the conversation between Mr Patel and Mr Chand but heard Mr Patel question his employees.

He said he did not see Mr Prasad working at the residential address when he entered the premises with Mr Patel.

Mr Nair’s first witness, unionist John Paul, told the tribunal that he wrote a letter to FEA wanting to correct the allegations made against Mr Prasad.

He said he had met with FEA’s general manager human resources to establish that Mr Prasad was treated unfairly.

Mr Paul told the tribunal after the meeting with the GM HR, he had received a copy of Mr Prasad’s termination letter.

Mr Nair’s second witness, Melvin Singh, who was also terminated by FEA on similar grounds along with his co-worker Anmol Raj, told the tribunal that they had received the directive from their live line co-ordinator, Mr Bhan who was in-charge of all the repair works, to work at that particular address.

He said in his cross-examination that a day earlier, Mr Bhan had informed him about the repairs to be carried out at Mr Chand’s residence between 8.30am to 1pm on April 30, 2016.

He said when Mr Patel arrived at the scene; his co-worker had taken Mr Prasad to the washroom inside the owner’s house while he was on top working on the power post.

Mr Singh told the tribunal that they did not receive any sort of cash from the owner for the repair works.

Mr Nair’s third witness, Mr Prasad told the court that he was given the directive from Mr Bhan to drop the two employees at Mr Chand’s residence at 8.30am and then left to join his team to work till 1pm.

During cross-examination, Mr Prasad told the tribunal when he reached the scene, he asked Mr Chand to visit the washroom.

He said all the directives were given by Mr Bhan which they had to follow as they were scared to have their hours of work deducted by Mr Bhan.

Mr Prasad also stated that they were forced by Mr Bhan to write a statement presented in the internal investigation conducted by FEA. The statement stated that they were at Mr Chand’s residence to carry out house wiring works. It also said they never paid cash and they apologised in their statement.

He told the tribunal that he did not carry out any repair works at Mr Chand’s residence and was there to only pick and drop the employees as per Mr Bhan’s directive.

Mr Prasad also told the tribunal that no certificate of service or reference from FEA was given to him upon the termination.

Both Mr Nair and Ms Fatiaki are to submit their closed submissions within 21 days.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa



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