When we believe a member has been unfairly sacked we generally take their case to the Fair Work Commission.
We usually seek reinstatement of the employee or compensation for their financial losses.
When we are able to settle at the conciliation stage we are unable to release certain details of the Deed of Settlement.
Typically, this means we have to be careful in disclosing specifics regarding unfair dismissal matters once settled.
So in sharing this good news story about a long-time member of the TWU we’ll the member concerned - Jack.
This veteran truck driver has been a union member longer than I have been alive – and I’ve got plenty of grey hair!
Jack had also been a delegate at one of the bigger transport yards in Perth - a very strong union yard.
The yard manager was well aware of this and was obviously looking to make an example of someone whom he deemed to be a trouble maker.
Jack had been off work since December 2015 due to a work-related injury and was covered by worker’s compensation.
He had been upfront with his employer after going through surgery and had let them know how long his recovery would likely take.
His surgeon had advised he may need a second operation if his injury persisted. Being an honest bloke Jack informed his employer of this conversation.
The employer immediately jumped on what seemed a good opportunity to give Jack the boot. The boss issued a letter demanding further medical reports or a definite date in which he would be back to work 100%.
Jack thought he was doing the right thing by being upfront and arranged an updated medical certificate as requested.
Soon after, he was called to the office for a catch up chat.
Jack assumed the meeting meant his employer had genuine concern about his health and wanted to check on his progress.
Wrong! – this meeting was to sack poor Jack!
Jack’s only ‘misconduct’ was being absent from work from December through April while on worker’s comp!
He still had a heap of annual and long service leave owed to him but the company was adamant he had to go.
The company refused to accept it had acted unfairly.
So we lodged an adverse action application with the Fair Work Commission claiming a breach of the general protections provided to all employees in Australia.
An adverse action claim is never a good look for any employer and is certain to catch attention should the matter proceed to hearing.
I had been in contact with the company who now assured me they had made a genuine mistake, an ‘administration error’, and that they would never intentionally do anything of the sort.
At the conciliation hearing the company agreed to reinstate Jack.
Then amazingly, they left Jack hanging like a carcass in the breeze for several more months pending further medical evidence.
They also told Jack he had to pay back some of the leave that was paid out to him when he was terminated
Jack had been certified by his own doctor as able to return to work on modified/ light duties and was understandably keen to just get back to work and back to normal.
Eventually he did get back on the job in keeping with the confidential agreement reached with the Fair Work Commission – a great win for him and the TWU.
And in more good news - the a-hole manager who sacked Bill had managed to get himself on the naughty list and is no longer working for the company.
This article originally appeared in TWU WA Branch's official publication The Wheel