Date set for pilots appeal

A three-judge Supreme Court bench will hear the appeal that was filed by eight Air Niugini pilots challenging their termination last year.

That appeal will go for hearing on June 27 at 9:30am at Waigani.

 Captains Joseph Kumasi, Boris Ageda, Vincent Tongia, Benjamin Lopa, Norman Daniel, and first officers Elijah Yuangi, David Seken and Abel Kanego are challenging their termination from Air Niugini last September.

The Supreme Court on March 23 granted interim relief to the pilots, which stayed their termination as well as eviction from Air Niugini’s accommodation.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia allowed or granted leave for their appeal to be heard by the full court.

He was of the view that they had an arguable case as serious errors were made when the National Court dismissed their judicial review case on Feb 7 this year.

The National Court on Feb 7 dismissed the review and ruled that Air Niugini is a company and the employment of the pilots and their termination was not reviewable because they are not public office holders, as there was no statute-making provision for their terms and conditions of employment, including their termination.

Trial judge Justice Collin Makail said the State may control Air Niugini but it was unclear how the State comes in when dealing with disciplinary processes and dismissal of employees.

Kumasi, Ageda, Tongia, Lopa and Daniel were employed under a contract of employment with Air Niugini Ltd while Yuangi, Seken and Kanego were employed as cadet pilots.

They were terminated by the Air Niugini management between Sept 1-15, 2016  over allegations of misconduct.

They were terminated because they did not turn up for work, which resulted in many flights being interrupted and many passengers stranded during a stop-work period.

Between July 13 and 20, 2016, Air Niugini experienced an increase in the number of national pilots reporting sick and unable to attend work after a stop-work took place, calling on Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to step down from office. The stop work was not an industrial issue and began on July 13, 2016.

The eight pilots were terminated after they refused to attend to the company’s approved doctor for a second medical opinion after they provided medical certificates for days they missed work on.

They were also terminated for failing to report for duty for reasons of security concern, and sharing Facebook posts that called for civilians not to go for work during the month of July. 

Loop PNG file picture


Sally Pokiton