Sunday, October 23, 2005

Boys, you must synchronise watches AND stories

Two constables called in person. It seemed that several months previously a male person had walked past the Wayside Tavern at 3:30 in the morning. The police were here to "get a statement" from Mine Host on the "incident".

Baffled, I enquired what on earth made the police think that ANYONE could remember a random pedestrian some months later, especially one which passed by AFTER the pub had shut?

In the surly tone of voice usually only heard when police are telling you that a green light was "Red", one of the constables adjusted the weight on his feet, dropped his hands (with notebook) angrily by his side & said:
"Look, cut the crap, he walked past here on the night of (date X), now TELL US what you saw happen!"

Not very far this could go. Empty handed the two constables departed.

It transpired that some months previously a young man had been killed in a hit & run, only a few hundred metres from the Wayside Tavern. An inquiry was about to be held into the death.

The night had been black, the stretch of road ill lit, the hit & run vehicle, which nobody had seen, was presumed to be a semi-trailer, the victim had been full of drugs & alcohol.

Straightforward you say? Hmmm.... so why the police so stirred up about people who didn't see him further up the street?

It transpires that only 15 minutes before the discovery of the body the victim had been in police custody. Held in the cells for a street offence, the police had released the prisoner after the required 4 hours, as he was sobered up & "able to look after himself".


Walking past the police station, & then along the most direct route to the site of the hit & run, Mine Host can only make the distance within 15 minutes by vigorous "power-walking".

The victim had been drunk & drugged, neither of which help you to walk fast.

The inquiry was a short one, & would have been even shorter if it were not for the efforts by the police (the uncharitable would say "stumbling" or "squirming") to demonstrate that between release from the cells & being hit by the truck, the victim "must" have been to see his dealer & gotten some drugs, & also despite the lonely hour & the deserted streets somehow obtained alcohol & drank a quantity. All in 15 minutes?


Friday, October 14, 2005

Unfair Dismissal Scrapped? Blame the Union

Finally the unfair dismissal laws are to be scrapped. Mine Host knows of several cases, all settled or judged in favour of the employee. Each of the cases were falsified, a successful attempt to "get" an employer.

When the unfair dismissal laws are scrapped, their passing will result in a celebration by Mine Host, & no doubt by each of the other thousands of small business operators who have been victimised by these unfair laws

For those who regret the demise of such laws, I say this: Blame your Union.

The unions have used the unfair dismissal laws as a method of extorting money from small business.

There is no penalty, financial or otherwise, to an employee whose unfair dismissal case is taken on by a union.
For the employer, there is a minimum cost of fighting the case, which could be as "low" as $7,000 to $25,000. On the upper end of costs, the sky is the limit

Remember, these costs to the employer are for winning.
Remember, the average employer is not BP, Toyota Motor or Microsoft, but Mum & Dad, struggling to make the average adult wage.

Even cases which have absolutely no merit have been used by unions to extort cash from employers, who pay a small amount rather than face the financial & emotional cost of neglecting their business to fight a case.

Bring on the end of the unfair dismissal laws, the sooner the better.

Mine Host has has two unfair dismissal cases brought against him, each is the subject of an individual post below:

IR case #2, "Factcheck Challenged"

Exactly a week after starting work, Two staff did not arrive for work at the Divers Arms.

Their room (they were in a common-law marriage) in the staff quarters was vacant, the key left in the open door.

He was a Chef. She a Receptionist.

A yellow post-it note reading "Good Luck" was stuck atop the 10cm high pile of paperwork she had supposedly been processing the night before on (what became) her final shift.

What she had been doing instead was tampering with every accommodation booking for the next several weeks, dates of arrival, contact phone number, length of stay etc. were all altered, many were deleted.

Three days of full time work, referring to the handwritten paper copies, was required just to rectify this damage.

A few weeks later a bill arrives from the taxi company, dated the morning of their departure, for their 6am ride to the airport! Until that moment, Mine Host had been unaware that taxi rides were on anything but a strictly-cash basis.

For this Mine Host reported the pair to the police, for fraud.

Some weeks later a fax is recieved from the Industrial Relations Dept.
The pair were claiming for unfair dismissal (including for wages to be paid in lieu of "no notice of dismissal given by the employer".)

Shocked return fax advised I.R. that all allegations were false.
Several senior staff & professional advisors informed I.R. that the wording of the complaint was defamatory. The police were notified that the taxi fraud suspects had surfaced.

I.R. kept faxing, tersely noting that payment had not yet been made to the claimants, & recommending that Mine Host pay up, to "avoid the matter being handed to a compliance officer for investigation & prosecution".

Several statements were produced by I.R., all supporting the pair of claimants. Every statement was by disgruntled former staff.

In support of Mine Host were statements by:
Several CPA's (Accountancy professionals)
Contract Head Chefs (with several leading overseas hotels on their C.V.)
Four persons of sufficient character to hold a liquor licence, including 2 who were J.P.'s.

I.R. openly took the view that all statements made in support of Mine Host were by people who "would say that wouldn't they?"

I.R. openly took the view that statements supporting the claimants, by persons with outstanding arrest warrants in other states amounted to "damning evidence" against Mine Host.

Mine Host's representations that the Two claimants had "done a runner" may have tweaked a chord with the I.R. investigator. Very early in the investigation the pair were called in & asked had they absconded without notice from their employment with Mine Host.

Gravely they both denied this.

The following morning both had disappeared from their rented accommodation, from their new jobs, their mobile phone numbers had been deactivated. They were suspected of fleeing interstate (to avoid jurisdiction). I.R. was never able to contact or locate them.

But none of this was revealed to Mine Host by the compliance officer. The terse, demanding faxes continued, for months.

Statements by Mine Host that the pair had "done a runner from their job" were scoffed at by the compliance officer.

The rough treatement of Mine Host ceased only when the housekeeping staff at the Divers Arms wrote a joint statement in their own words: "Fritz & Xaviera had been bragging about what a laugh it would be to make a mess of the paperwork, then do a bolt without telling the boss, this hotel was a joke to them, but to the rest of us it is our job & our living, we reckon they done the wrong thing."

I.R. then faxed that prosecution would not be proceeding at this point, due to "insufficient evidence".

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.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Man the Pumps!

Aghast at the cost of renovation/extension to the Wayside Tavern, Mine Host has long dreamt (idly) of the easy way, an "insurance job", gloating over the positive outcome of releasing a red steer in the premises.

A "sad fire" would provide a brand new Wayside Tavern, at insurance company expense. This new building would be without any of the design flaws, inefficiencies etc. which exist in the current building. With but one strike of a match, Mine Host would be provided with a new glitch free pub AND some relaxing downtime, without loss of profit, due to "loss of income" insurance.

For a fire to be successful, the Wayside Tavern would have to be drenched with what in fire brigade parlance, is known as "accelerant". Such activity would leave sufficient of what is known in police parlance, as "evidence", and after the resulting conviction, Mine Host would not only be denied insurance payments, but would serve what is known in common parlance, as "a stretch".

A fire without evidence of being deliberately lit is easy, any number of possibilities spring readily to mind: The kitchen is good for any number of fires, stove spill, burning roast, deep fryer accident, etc etc. Unfortunately the fire brigade with their big powerful water hoses will easily put out any such unaccelerated fire.

Or so mine host thought!

Recently a very small & easily put out fire broke out a few doors down from the Wayside Tavern. (see the fire? this fire engine photo is all smoky)

The Fire Brigade arrived after several minutes, the firemen dressed in heavier clobber than Shackleton. With lots of macho heaving & grunting, the firemen set about their business, some going to to inspect the "blaze", whilst others connected the fire engine to the water mains, then set to work pumping lots of water. Thus impressing the bystanders.

Then the "stream" ceased. Much furrowing of brows amongst the firemen, rapid consultations between fire brigade, police, council officers, etc.

The "blaze" was extinguished (just) by other means, as the hoses remained dry.

The water mains are not able to carry water as fast as the fire brigade can pump! In the event of a fire in the CBD, there will be insufficient water to put it out!

This nugget of information has been remembered by Mine Host. It could be very handy, hee hee hee!