The applicant was engaged as an engineer on board the vessel M/Y Wheels, registered in Valletta, Malta. On the 30th of October, 2013 the applicant resigned from his position and proceeded to submit an application with the Industrial Tribunal alleging that this resignation was the result of a ‘constructive dismissal’ and that he should consequently be compensated.
The applicant had been working for the employer since 18th October 2012 as a Chief Engineer on a contract for an indefinite duration. In terms of ‘Geographical Location’ the contract of employment stated that ‘the contract covers voyages and/or time spent in port anywhere throughout the world’.
In accordance with evidence given by the employer’s accountant, the vessel M/Y Wheels is registered as a Commercial Yacht and is primarily used for chartering purposes in international waters with a permanent crew of eight seamen, including the applicant.
The applicant alleged that the Captain of the vessel had made it impossible for him to carry out his duties effectively which forced him to resign and claim a ‘constructive dismissal’.
The employer claimed that the Industrial Tribunal does not have jurisdiction to hear the case since the employment is regulated by The Merchant Shipping Act (Chapter 234 of the Laws of Malta) and that by virtue of Article 75 of the Employment and Industrial Relations Act (Chapter 452 of the Laws of Malta), the Industrial Tribunal does not have the jurisdiction to hear cases in relation to termination of employment regulated by other laws.
The Tribunal analysed the employers claim and noted that the applicant was one of eight permanent seamen on board the vessel M/Y Wheels and that Chapter 234 of the Laws of Malta defines ‘seaman’ as including ‘every person (except masters, pilots and apprentices) employed or engaged in any capacity on board a ship’.
The Tribunal also noted that Article 147 of Chapter 234 caters for cases in which disputes arise between a master of a ship and a seaman and outlines the powers of the Courts in such circumstances. The Tribunal went on to note that Chapter 234 regulates all aspects relating to employment of seamen. In light of the above observations, the Tribunal decided that it does not have jurisdiction to hear the dispute.
This case is of interest since it highlights the fact that not all employment disputes fall within the jurisdiction of the Industrial Tribunal and that it is crucial to choose the right forum to present your case.
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