Industrial Tribunal’s jurisdiction on fixed-term work contracts being restored

Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A bill that is being backed unanimously in Parliament would enable workers on a definite contract to seek redress at the Industrial Tribunal, restoring a right they had lost through a Court judgment.

On 25 January, 2019, the Court of Appeal had ruled in an unjust dismissal case filed against the University of Malta that according to the Employment and Industrial Relations Act, the tribunal had no jurisdiction over fixed-term employment contracts. The Court cited Article 75, in which unjust dismissal is defined as “the termination by the employer in respect of that worker of a contract of employment for an indefinite time.”

Minister Carmelo Abela emphasised his belief that workers on a fixed-term contract should be able to seek redress at the tribunal, and emphasised that trade unions and employers’ associations were both in agreement over this.

The bill itself is brief and uncontroversial – Nationalist MP Clyde Puli quickly signalled the Opposition’s backing – and Abela seized the opportunity to emphasise that he felt that improvements were needed at the tribunal.

The minister said that it was unacceptable to have 313 pending cases at the tribunal, particularly since many were just awaiting sentence, even as he recognised the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tribunal’s operations.

Abela also criticised what he deemed to be excessive deferrals sought by lawyers at the tribunal.

He said that there was the need to remember the reason the tribunal was set up and overhaul its procedures.

“The aim of the tribunal is for workers who feel that they have suffered injustices to obtain redress as soon as possible,” the minister maintained.