The Employment Relations Tribunal yesterday dismissed an application by the National Union of Workers.
The application was filed against Lautoka garment manufacturer Danam Fiji Pte Limited.
In May last year, the Union reported a dispute against the company, claiming wages for their members during the 18 days Lautoka was under lockdown.
They argued that under section 24 of the Employment Relations Act, the workers were entitled for regular wages during that particular period.
However, the company’s position was that they closed the factory operations in Lautoka in view of directions given by the Government to curtail the spread of COVID-19.
The employer relied on the doctrine of frustration and the exemption of the Act of God to excuse their performance of their duties to provide work and pay wages for the lockdown period.
In his ruling, the Resident Magistrate stated that the pandemic remained within the ambient of Act of God when the Prime Minister announced the lockdown of greater Lautoka on 19th March 2020 and upto 6th April 2020.
The ruling further stated that accordingly, there is a casual link between the pandemic and non-performance by the employer of its contractual obligations to provide work to these staff throughout the 18 days lockdown period.
There’s also available evidence according to the Magistrate which indicated that the pandemic which qualifies as an Act of God is the ultimate cause that prevented the company from providing regular work.