NATION

Trade Union Dispute Solicitor-General : FPSA In Wrong Forum To Fight Case

Solicitor-General Sharvada Sharma says an application brought to the Employment Relations Tribunal should be filed at the Employment Arbitration Court. The application before Suva Resident Magistrate Deepika Prakash yesterday was
30 Sep 2017 10:00
Trade Union Dispute Solicitor-General : FPSA In  Wrong Forum To Fight Case
Solicitor-General Sharvada Sharma (left), and Fiji Public Service Association General Secretary Rajeshwar Singh outside the Magistrates Court in Suva on September 29, 2017. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Solicitor-General Sharvada Sharma says an application brought to the Employment Relations Tribunal should be filed at the Employment Arbitration Court.

The application before Suva Resident Magistrate Deepika Prakash yesterday was made by the Fiji Public Service Association on behalf of five public sector unions.

The unions are FPSA, Fiji Teachers Union, Fijian Teachers Association, Fiji Nurses Association and Fiji Oral Health Workers Association.

Mr Sharma, who represented the Registrar of Trade Unions said the FPSA had made an application in a matter involving strike ballot in essential services.

Mr Sharma said provision 19 of the Employment Relations Promulgation Amendment Act 2015 stated any matter in relation to trade disputes, with respect to threatened trade dispute, meaning dispute of interest, were matters that fell within the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court.

He said this had been specifically established to deal with collective bargaining and trade dispute matters in essential services.

Mr Sharma informed the Tribunal that the Employment Relations Promulgation Amendment Act 2015 was clear.

He said individual employment grievances could be brought before the Tribunal but not collective dispute matters.

Any matter with respect to a strike or breach in negotiation or anything to do with collective bargaining needed to be brought to the Arbitration Court.

“Given that this is a challenge to the jurisdiction of this Tribunal, the respondent needs to file a summons to strike out this matter,” Mr Sharma said.

Mr Sharma submitted that not more than 14 days should be given to them to file a summons with a supporting affidavit to have the matter struck out from the Tribunal.

He suggested to Mr Singh to have a proper forum to address their complaints.

Mr Singh disagreed and informed the Tribunal that the motion was sought under a dispute of rights.

“We are allowed to come under this Tribunal and we know that the dispute of papers goes to Arbitration but we have a right to come this Tribunal.”

He added that in regards to the trade dispute they had filed all the requirements.

“We made an application for the Registrar of Trade Unions to supervise our ballot and she has vetoed it and nowhere is it written that she can veto our application.

“We gave a proper notice on August 30, 21 days’ notice as required.

“We feel she has no powers to veto. The Act is clear she must supervise the ballot and the onus sits on the Registrar of the Trade Unions to supervise the ballot,” Mr Singh said.

Mr Singh said the Registrar frustrated the process.

Mr Sharma, however, strongly objected to this and stated that the Registrar did not frustrate the process but wanted to ensure that in respect to essential services, all process be followed in respect to the law.

“The preliminary argument is that this application needs to go before the Arbitration Court, it involves essential services.” Mr Sharma said.

Ms Prakash adjourned the case to October 20 for mention and to confirm a hearing date. Respective affidavits should be filed by then.

Edited by Rusiate Mataika

Feedback:  losirene.lacanivalu@fijisun.com.fj

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