Court rules on appeal

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The Employment Relations Court (ERC) has no jurisdiction to hear and determine an employment grievance brought by a worker in an essential service and industry, the Fiji Court of Appeal has ruled.

On August 14, 2020, the ERC had ruled that it could hear a case brought by Ajendra Sharma against his former employer, ANZ Banking Group Pte Ltd.

ANZ then filed an appeal against the ERC decision, asking the appeals court to determine if a worker in an Essential Service and Industry sector could bring an action or employment grievance in the Employment Relations Court.

ANZ also sought a ruling on whether any worker in Fiji (whether or not employed in an Essential Service and Industry) could make a claim of unjustified dismissal or unfair dismissal directly to the ERC or must those claims only be made in an employment grievance that can only be reported to Mediation Services and the Employment Relations Tribunal (which has jurisdiction not exceeding $40,000).

“The Employment Relations Court has no jurisdiction to hear and determine an employment grievance brought by a worker in an essential service and industry,” said Justices Farzana Jameel, Karen Clark and Gerard Winter in their February 29 ruling.

“Such a worker is bound to pursue their employment grievance first, by lodging it in accordance with s188( 4) and secondly, in accordance with Part 13 pursuant to which the employment grievance will “first be referred for mediation services”.

“The ERC has no jurisdiction to hear employment grievances but if a claim for unjustified or unfair dismissal is “founded on a contract of employment”, and properly pleaded as such, the ERC has jurisdiction under s 220 (I)(h) to hear and determine such a claim.”

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