“Act of God” amendment to the Employment Relations Act is sheer sacrilege - Chaudhry

“Act of God” amendment to the Employment Relations Act is sheer sacrilege - Chaudhry

By Vijay Narayan
Friday 29/05/2020
Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry

Fiji Labour Party Leader, Mahendra Chaudhry says the categorisation of the COVID-19 pandemic as an “act of God” after the amendment to the Employment Relations Act is sheer sacrilege, and he has also raised the question on how can a man-made disaster be attributed to God.

An act of God is a legal definition in the bill.

Although Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says employers have to prove that they have no work to provide to an employee due to the impact of COVID-19 before laying off the employee, Chaudhry says the amendment is dangerous as it paves the way for employers to terminate workers willy nilly under the guise of the COVID-19 crisis.

Chaudhry says the Fiji Airways Flight Attendants Union had earlier stated its intention to take legal action at the manner in which some 475 of its members were terminated on 25th May in breach of their collective agreement.

He believes the amendment is meant to frustrate court action by the union in this particular case. Chaudhry who says that the Labour Party will be working with FTUC to fight their cause has warned that the legislation could not be used retrospectively, or backdated. Chaudhry also says that it is clear the government has to borrow more money now as government revenue has continued to drop in the past years. He says the consecutive years of growth was also fuelled by consumption and borrowings which are now seriously affected.

He also says it is now understandable that the government has to take more overseas loans as Chaudhry believes the government has borrowed more than enough from FNPF.


Bill passed to allow employers to let go of their workers if they cannot provide work due to an act of God which includes COVID-19

By Vijay Narayan
Thursday 28/05/2020
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad. [image: Parliament of Fiji]

Parliament has today passed the Employment Relations Bill that allows employers to let go of their workers if they cannot provide work due to an act of God which includes COVID-19 - as the definition of an act of God in the passed bill now also includes a pandemic declared by the World Health Organization.

Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum stresses that the employer has to clearly prove that they have to let go of their employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill sets out the employers’ duty to provide work unless the worker has broken his or her contract, the contract is frustrated or its performance is prevented by an act of God.

Sayed-Khaiyum also says National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad should stop thinking that money is just lying around for the government.

The Minister for Economy says government revenue is down by $1 billion, expenditure is only down by $300 million, and most of the tax revenue is down as there are no more tourists at this stage.

Sayed-Khaiyum also says they are fully aware and have already said that as the weeks and months go ahead, things will get tougher if the economy does not bounce back and the travel bubble does not open up.

National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad believes the government needs to do more as civil servants have already sacrificed a total of $40 million due to the reduction in their FNPF contributions.

He also says the FNPF Withdrawal Scheme and government subsidy is being done in a progessive, sustainable and deliberate manner, rather than just giving money out.

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