High Court overturns unfair dismissal ruling on protesting resort workers

High Court overturns unfair dismissal ruling on protesting resort workers
November 27 17:16 2017

The High Court has overturned an Employment Tribunal unfair dismissal ruling over the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort’s sacking of three local staff in 2014.

Ahmed Siyad, Hussain Ali Didi and Moosa Mohamed, who were senior members of the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives, were accused of organising and joining four separate “illegal” demonstrations on the resort island. The protesting staff alleged discrimination between local and expatriate employees and demanded equal pay, freedom of speech and other worker’s rights.

When they challenged the dismissal, the tribunal ruled that the resort had acted unfairly and ordered payment of compensation. However, citing negligence by the former employees, the tribunal declined to order reinstatement.

In a judgment delivered last week on appeal by Furana Holdings, which operates the resort, the High Court ruled that the protests “have to be deemed illegal” because the employees did not seek written permission as required by the Freedom of Assembly Act.

“Ahmed Shiyaz, Hussain Ali Didi and Moosa Mohamed participated in the protests by different degrees despite repeated warnings from the management of the resort to refrain from doing so,” the judgment stated.

“The court finds that their actions could have led to disruption of peace and damages to resort, making their immediate dismissal justifiable under law.”

An inquiry and opportunity to respond were unnecessary due to “overwhelming evidence” that the dismissals without notice were in accordance with the due process required by the Employment Act, the appellate court said, noting that their participation in the protests was beyond dispute. 

The management had justifiable reasons because it believed they could cause damage to the resort, the three-judge panel added. 

The resort workers were sacked over protests staged in April and May 2014. More protests followed their dismissal but were forcibly disbanded by riot police.

Four staff members were also arrested at the time after scuffles between the police and the protesting workers. The arrests followed a number of incidents of staff unrest among workers in the country’s largest industry.

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