20 August 2012
Grace Collier is an industrial relations consultant who spends a fair slab of time in unfair dismissal conciliation. This is where someone sacked takes the matter to Fair Work Australia.
She wrote in the Australian Financial Review that in the first three months of this year, 3,574 sacked staff took action and all were required to enter conciliation. Thereafter 117 went on to a full blown court hearing, costing on average $10,000 per day.
One case she reports had a sacked house cleaner admitting she stole a home owner’s kitten, and she had three prior written warnings on general work matters. Furthermore after said kitten was abducted, and cleaner sacked, the home owner received abusive calls. At CX our colleague Paul reported his holiday rental contract cleaner to their boss, and got his car vandalized for this trouble.
Notwithstanding the apparent tetchy nature of cleaners, and seeking to maintain our spotless and terrific office campus (thank you Friday cleaner, we DO appreciate everything you do), the allegedly unfairly dismissed kitten-napper demanded $8,000 in ‘go away money’, and was valiant represented at no cost in conciliation by the United Voice Union.
Unable to stomach the morality of this mess, the cleaning company owner refused to cough up the 8 grand and was one of the 117 cases heard in the period. He lost, due to ‘procedural issues’.
In our industry most crew are casual so this contentious problem is minimal, but we had a bitter taste under bygone laws when we fired a staffer for complete incompetence and she took legal action. We were incensed that on the way out she had (we say) maliciously deleted files including ALL her work, which she had not backed up (another competency issue).
Our barrister met her barrister on the courthouse steps, strongly agitated for a settlement meeting, and agreed we would pay her a couple of grand plus costs. Then the barrister cohort all went to a lunch, as we had paid them for a whole day.
In the settlement we insisted on the right to publish full proceedings in our magazine, along with naming her.
We did this mainly to alert others to the risks associated with hiring someone who would go this far for personal gain, and got a box of flame mail for picking on a girl.