A former Burton Downs coal mine supervisor who left shift early, along with a fellow supervisor who was accused of covering for him, have told the Fair Work Commission that their subsequent sacking was a case of unfair dismissal.
Allan Baker was sacked for serious misconduct by contractor Thiess in May of this year after leaving the worksite early on the evening of 27 March 2014 without following the proper permission process and for being “less than truthful” in his version of events.
Fellow supervisor Adrian Ward was also dismissed at the same time for being “less than truthful” and for “a serious breach in the trust and confidence we place in members of our site leadership team.”
Mr Ward was accused of lying to Thiess employees investigating Mr Baker’s early departure.
Thiess maintains that on the night of 27 March 2014 Mr Baker left his shift only three hours after starting, despite the mine operating under ‘Code Yellow’ due to rain.
Burton Mine suffers from geotechnical issues in that rain is liable to cause weaknesses in both the Highwall and the Low-wall, which increase the risk of failure (in the form of fissures, cracking or even a collapse of the wall).
Rain usually stops production at Burton mine but some limited activity, such as rehabilitation work, may be carried out by dozers and graders under a Code Yellow. Staff not working while it is raining will generally undergo training.
The Commission found that Mr Baker, had in fact, received verbal permission to leave early, but that proper procedures were not followed and that Mr Baker had lied about his time of departure.
Mr Baker’s claim of unfair dismissal against Thiess was therefore dismissed at the Commission hearing yesterday.
However the Commission upheld Mr Ward’s application of unfair dismissal, saying there was no evidence to show he had tried to cover for Mr Baker and that he had not deliberately sought to deceive his employer.
The Commission found that, “Thiess did not follow its own established procedures concerning disciplinary action in dismissing Mr Ward.”
“(The Commission) concludes that Mr Ward’s dismissal was harsh, unjust and unreasonable. There was no valid reason for his dismissal, he was in a substantive sense denied procedural fairness.”
At the Commission hearing yesterday Thiess was ordered to reinstate Mr Ward to the position in which he was employed immediately before his dismissal.