Court: No reason needed to end expat musicians' contract

KUALA LUMPUR: Employers do not need to give a reason for not extending the employment of expatriates on fixed term contracts, ruled the Industrial Court.

In the case between seven foreign musicians against the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Industrial Court chairman Hapipah Monel ruled that a foreigner's employment in Malaysia was subject to obtaining work permits from the Immigration Department.

As such, the employers were not in the position to guarantee automatic renewals of fixed term contracts.

This also meant the employers are protected from wrongful termination suits, should no issue arise about the fixed term contract.

The suit initiated by violinist Toko Inomoto and six other orchestra members, challenged their former employer’s decision not to extend their contracts which expired on Aug 15, 2012.

Hapipah found that the musicians were aware that their contracts were for a fixed-term period of two years, and not meant as a permanent position.

She ruled that the musicians’ fixed term contracts had naturally expired, thus the MPO did not even need to dismiss them, leaving no basis for a wrongful dismissal suit.

The case was first referred to the Industrial Court on Jan 31, 2013, and heard over six days between Jan and April 2014.

The seven musicians - Ikomoto,  timpanist Paul Andrew Philbert, trombonist Kevin Hugh Thompson, percussionist Darcey Layne Timmerman, and violinist Markus Gunderman, Liu Jian and Brian C. Larson - had been long time employees, some even founding members of the MPO.