Town council suspends manager

LAUTOKA City Council’s manager health services and Fiji Local Government Association national president Rouhit Karan Singh was stood down yesterday for “engaging in non-council functions during normal working hours”.

He said he was verbally informed of the decision by LCC chief executive officer Jone Nakauvadra and handed an official letter late yesterday afternoon.

“I was called into a meeting with the CEO and he told me that I was being stood down from my post based on allegations they had received that I was doing non-council work during working hours,” he said.

“I requested them to issue a letter stating these claims and I received a formal letter at about 4.30pm informing me of the decision.

“He also asked me to return any council property that I had with me and the only thing I had was a mobile phone.”

The Fiji Times sighted the letter signed by Mr Nakauvadra which said that he was being stood down with pay while investigations were being conducted into claims he had been doing non-council activities during working hours.

Mr Singh said he was at a loss as to the reason he was being suspended.

“I don’t really know what kind of non-council work I did during working hours because that could mean anything.

“All they said was that I was doing some union work which again is not very clear.

“Now that I have the letter and it gives an indication of their claims, I will use it to present my case.

“This is a very sad day because I have given over 10 years of service to the council.”

In a statement, Fiji Trades Union Congress national secretary Felix Anthony condemned the suspension.

He said this action was nothing short of discrimination for legitimate trade union activity and reaffirmed FTUC’s claim that “we have in place a Government that was anti-worker and anti-union”.

“This action is to instil fear in council workers that they dare not speak against the Government,” he said.

“The FTUC demand that Mr Singh be reinstated to his former position without loss of pay.”

When contacted yesterday, Local Government Minister Parveen Kumar referred all queries to his permanent secretary Joshua Wycliffe.

Mr Wycliffe said the matter was under investigation and he was unable to comment. Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations Jone Usamate said he was not aware of Mr Singh’s suspension, however, he was free to appeal the council’s decision.

“Any worker who feels he or she has been terminated unfairly always has the right to appeal the decision to the employer and ultimately to the ministry,” he said.

“Conditions of employment are defined by contracts of employment which in turn will specify disciplinary procedures.”