Court criticises ministry

The Employment Relations Court has criticised the Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Ministry for not acting with due diligence in a workman’s compensation claim.

This was in relation to a case where a labour officer from the ministry represented Energy Fiji Ltd employee Keni Rokotunidau.

“If one looks at the conduct of the Labour Office in prosecuting the claim, it is nothing short of disrespect and disregard for (the) court,” Justice Anjala Wati said in her May 3 ruling.

“First, the office fails to appear in the tribunal twice to prosecute the matter. Then it takes 84 days to make an application to reinstate the same in the tribunal.

“After the tribunal condemns the delay, it takes a further one year three months to file an application to appeal out of time. Even then, it does not get the right application before the court.

“It is not fair that the proceedings in the tribunal be allowed to be dragged any further. There has to be finality to old cases and legal representatives appearing for their clients have to have regard for that.

“This includes the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations. If it takes on a responsibility on behalf of the citizens then it ought to fulfil that with due diligence. It cannot blame anyone for the delay and treat the cases and court processes with a careless attitude. The reasons in the affidavit only demonstrates carelessness on the part of the ministry.

“The matter in the tribunal is a 2017 Workman’s Compensation Claim. It is now six years. If the claim was prosecuted with due diligence the same would have been finalised. … I cannot excuse the delay.

“The employer (EFL) had been paying insurance for the worker and upon his death the family was paid out $100,000. The employer had a scheme for its workers called the EFL Marine Open Policy. In that way, I do not find that the family has been totally abandoned by the employer to say that there is prejudice suffered by the worker’s family.”

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