Friday, October 14, 2005

IR case #1. Legalised Shakedown

Secretary didn't come to work. Didn't appear all day.
No message, no warning, no nothing.
Phone calls to her house dialled out.

Casual conversation in the staff room revealed that the secretary was on holidays. Long planned holidays, booked & paid months in advance.

Several weeks later the secretary reappeared in the office, at her old desk, & was busy with paperwork.

She had been interstate "on holiday".

In the abscence of a valid reason for several weeks abscence from work, she was advised there was no longer a job for her.

Subsequently Mine Host was hauled before the Industrial Relations Commission. The secretary had made a 14 page complaint (apparently this is quite a long one) alleging "unfair dismissal".

The claim was for in excess of $30,000. Advice from the QHA was that just to fight this particular claim would cost $20,000.

Mine Host was contacted by an officer of the Clerks Union, (representing the former secretary).
The conversation ended with Mine Host & he agreeing to disagree. Mine Host called it "Workplace Abandonment", the Union Officer called it "Unfair Dismissal".
(The Union Official also had a poorly worded go at entrapping Mine Host into a comment that would compromise his position)

A "Mediation Hearing" was ordered by the IRC.

Mine Host was present, along with an Industrial Officer to represent him, likewise the former secretary was there with her Union Officer.
Mine Host's representative whispered to him that the Commissioner presiding over the mediation was a former magistrate, & thus likely to be impartial. (For those who never had to endure the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, impartiality by the Commissioners was most uncommon)

The hearing commenced with the Union Officer presenting the Commissioner with 20 pages of new documentation.
The Commissioner refused to allow Mine Host or his representative to see these new documents.

The union official opened by stating the secretary had been summarily dismissed for taking holidays, "which is a bit rough".

Mine Host's Industrial Representative opened by stating the secretary had walked off the job and gone on holidays without so much as a by-your-leave or any concern about how her job would be performed.

The Commssioner announced he would now speak with each party in "private conference". He then moved into a side room with the secretary & union officer.
Returning 20 minutes later, the Commissioner informed Mine Host: "Things don't look very good for you, I recommend that you settle immediately".
Mine Host refused to agree to an immediate settlement, confident that his 20 minute session with the Commissioner would throw a different complexion on things.

Instead, the Commissar spoke:
"Okay, I'll give you two weeks to come to your senses, all parties will reconvene at date X time X. I recommend you think about settlement"

Stunned, Mine Host put it to his representative that if this was an "impartial" commissioner, what could be expected of one who was anti-employer?

Over the next 2 weeks the representative earned his fee. Several telephone discussions were held with the union officer.
The secretary had not been full & frank with the union about the exact circumstances:
She had told them that she had applied for leave in writing & that leave had been granted.
This representation collapsed very quickly, after which the Union Officer quickly reduced the claim by 90%.

By the time of the reconvened Mediation Hearing, the claim had been reduced to 3 weeks pay + 1 week pay in lieu of "notice not given".
When asked how he felt about this by the Commissar, Mine Host weighed his options, a $20,000 cost to win, or pay a few weeks wages now to get it out of the way?

Mine Host poined out to the Commissar that the only thing he had been asked in this whole kangaroo court was will he pay? NEVER had he been allowed to state his response to the claim.
The Commissar expressed disgruntled surprise at this, & explained that Mine Host had been given "ample opportunity" to say his piece on the matter.

To this Mine Host retorted that "his piece" had been limited to a simple Yes or No to the Commissar's endless demands that cash payment be made to the secretary, whilst the opposing party had been given a 20 minute private audience.

The Commissar was unmoved.

The "week's pay in lieu" was dropped, and Reluctantly Mine Host agreed to a payment of 3 weeks wages. Laregely because the Wayside Tavern did not have $20,000 to spare.

Feeling ashamed at having put money before principle Mine Host was in a tense emotional state, very close to an outburst.

Then something happened that triggered Mine Host to dig his heels in.

As part of the settlement statement, the Union Officer asked for, and the Commissar granted, that Mine Host would also write a statement that the secretary had been a highly competent employee, & had left on very good terms.

Mine Host let go an emphatic "NO!"
In disbelief the Commissar asked for clarification, unsure of what he had heard, unable to believe he was being defied.
"I will not sign any such thing, such a document would be untrue, and I will go to gaol before I will ever put my signature to something which is not true."

Mine Host then gave a quick summation of the lack of due process so far, ending with an expression of shock & surprise that the Commissioner would expect someone to put their signature to something that wasn't true.

Sensing that the settlement offer was about to be withdrawn by a wronged employer who had been pushed too far, & knowing the secretary's case had limited prospects in a substantive hearing, the Union Officer hurriedly withdrew any requirement for a signed statement of "competence & goodwill" from the employer.

The settlement was signed, & the legalised shakedown was complete.

1 comment:

Dataceptionist said...

Its insane what people can get away with isn't it. My company is currently going through a bogus sexual harrassment claim through atrbitration.
Stupid c*** of a girl who used to work here is after $100K, and it looks like she'll get it, even though EVERYONE knows she's lying in her claims, even her lawyers, but "Daddy" and her browbeaten p-whipped husband have a friend doing the legal work for free.
its all Bullshit.

*Sorry for the laguage, I just get really worked up about stuff like this. Feel free to edit should you wish*