Eighteen Maldivian GMR employees will be reinstated as permanent baggage handlers at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport and given seven months back pay in a lump sum, the Employment Tribunal has ruled.
The Tribunal found last week that the employees’ temporary contracts, which were terminated in May, had violated rights and benefits conferred upon employees by the Employment Act.
The ruling states the contracts violated company policy, which identified baggage handling as a permanent position but for which workers were only issued temporary contracts.
“The employees were technically working in a permanent position, although they worked under a temporary contract. The Employment Act article 4[a] states that there shall be no differentiation in salaries of employees working in the same level,” said the Tribunal’s ruling.
The Maldives’ Employment Act does not state that temporary contracts themselves are invalid, as was reported by local media. The Act defines a “temporary employee” as someone “working on a day to day basis with no prospect of being made permanent employees.”
The contracts, which were issued by the airport’s former operator Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), were found to violate provisions of the Employment Act.
“The contracts had been issued on a three month basis by [Maldives Airports Company Limited] before GMR took them over,” said a Labor Relations Authority officer. “The Labor Relations Authority found that they did not provide for annual leave or for a Ramazan allowance,” he said.
According to the officer, GMR had been asked to update its temporary contracts in accordance with the Employment Act after employees filed a complaint in January. The contracts were updated as requested, and upon their expiration in May the employees were dismissed and a baggage handling company was hired.
Employment Tribunal Registrar Alia Haneef could not say if GMR’s hiring of a baggage handling company was against any regulation. However, “the previous contracts were invalid,” she said. “Section 13 states that employees who have been working under any form of contract for a total of two years or more are entitled to permanent contracts.”
The employees originally asked the tribunal to order GMR to reimburse them the money they would have received as permanent employees, however the report states that the tribunal was unable to rule on cases older than three months.
The tribunal concluded that GMR was to pay the value of seven months’ salaries and allowances within seven days and to consider the terminated employees as permanently contracted employees.
The case was filed at the tribunal on 27 April, although the order to pay back seven months’ worth of salaries and allowances refers to a start date of January 26. The tribunal’s reports claims this adjustment compensates for the first three months of the case on which it is unable to pass ruling, due to time elapsed.
A GMR spokesperson said the company had not been officially informed of the outcome by the Employment Tribunal and was unable to comment on the matter.
Correction: Previously, the article stated that “the Tribunal found that [the contracts] did not provide for annual leave or a Ramazan allowance.”
It should have stated that, “the Labor Relations Authority found that [the contracts] did not provide for annual leave or a Ramazan allowance.”