STELCO ordered to pay MVR56,000 to employee sacked for attending protest

STELCO ordered to pay MVR56,000 to employee sacked for attending protest
September 10 14:45 2015

The Employment Tribunal yesterday ordered the State Electricity Company (STELCO) to pay MVR56,520 (US$3665) as compensation to an employee sacked for attending an opposition protest.

The tribunal ruled that senior technician Ahmed Saleem ‘Andha,’ of Henveiru Onuthoorige, was dismissed on March 12 “without a valid reason or prior notice.”

The state-owned utility company had claimed that Saleem went to the protest on a day he was ordered to report to work. STELCO also accused Saleem of sowing discord within the company.

STELCO media coordinator Abdulla Nazir told The Maldives Independent today that the company has not yet decided whether to appeal the tribunal’s ruling.

Saleem had also sought an order from the tribunal for STELCO to reinstate him, but the ruling stated that “reinstatement will not be the fairest way to proceed as the two parties have lost confidence and trust in each other.”

The three-member panel of the tribunal – comprised of Mariyam Muna, Ismail Ahmed, and Aishath Fizleen – concluded that STELCO was unable to prove its contention that Saleem was “unfit for employment.”

The company was ordered to compensate Saleem within 20 days.

Saleem was among several opposition supporters dismissed by state-owned companies for attending protests sparked by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest on February 22. The opposition leader’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment on terrorism charges triggered a prolonged political crisis with daily street demonstrations and two mass rallies in Malé.

Some 18 staff at the Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) were suspended for participating in a 10,000-strong protest march on February 27 calling for President Abdulla Yameen’s resignation.

A procurement assistant at the Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC), Ibrahim Ismail, 20, was meanwhile dismissed on March 12 after he participated in a boat protest near Dhoonidhoo Island on March 6. Nasheed was kept at the police detention centre on the island at the time.

Following his dismissal on March 12, Saleem told The Maldives Independent that he was fired because of his political views despite 17 years of service.

Saleem said his colleagues first told him to stop posting anti-government comments on social media or sharing photos of opposition protests. He complied, but was later told to resign when he was seen at an MDP protest on March 6.

At the time, STELCO offered him an MVR 300,000 (US$19,455) retirement package, but he declined the offer. Soon afterwards, he received a letter informing him of his dismissal, he said.

“I received a double promotion just three months back. This is an injustice. I will appeal this case at the Employment Tribunal,” he said.

A second employee dismissed from STELCO, Ali Farhad, had meanwhile claimed that the President’s Office was directly responsible for his dismissal.

Several employees who attended the March 6 protests were asked to write apology letters to First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim or then-tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, the 43-year old claimed. Farhad said he was dismissed when he refused to write the letter.

STELCO at the time dismissed claims of forced resignation and insisted that the employees in question were retired voluntarily and afforded full retirement benefits.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said at the time that it would assist employees in contesting any unfair dismissal, suspension or incidents of harassment at the Employment Tribunal.

Meanwhile, in the wake of a second mass anti-government demonstration on May 1, ruling party MP Ahmed Nihan urged the government to track down civil servants and employees of state-owned companies who had participated in the protest and dismiss them immediately.

The state-owned Fenaka Corporation had dismissed two employees without notice over their alleged participation in the mass rally. Nearly 200 protesters were arrested on May 1 in a heavy-handed police crackdown.

The Employment Tribunal was established on December 29, 2008 under the landmark Employment Act to adjudicate and resolve employment disputes. The seven-member tribunal is appointed by the president.