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Kiribati worker wins $8000 in wrongful dismissal case against SPL

Southern Paprika

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By the Kiribati Independent

Southern Paprika Limited has been ruled “unfair and unreasonable”  in its actions by sacking a Kiribati picker for alleged disobedience.

The Employment Relations Authority ordered the immediate reinstatement of the worker who had been sacked in January .

Botau Retire, 23, was dismissed from his job for allegedly disobeying official instructions.

His request to leave work for mediation at the Department of Labour as a translator for another Kiribati worker, was declined. He did not listen and left work without the employer’s approval.

His employer regarded that disobedience as serious misconduct and dismissed him instantly.

Angered by that instant dismissal, Botau brought his personal grievance to the authority in May, seeking its resolution on two grounds: to challenge a written warning of July 2011 and his dismissal of January 24 this year.

Tribunal  hearing
Defending the dismissal at the hearing, SPL submitted that it was a lawful and reasonable dismissal because it has already given Retire written warning in July last year for threatening and questioning another employee over racist texts, and he was also under the poor performance category.

According to the determination released June 18, Retire and another former employee were disciplined for questioning a Pakeha worker over that racist text against “black people”.

It was alleged that the company’s phone was used to send a text which reads: “the best Christmas present I ever had was a black man swinging from the trees”.

The authority found that the company did not bother about the issue.

The authority was surprised when two other employees, who were at the scene with Retire asking questions, were not disciplined by SPL. This was not fair, said the authority.

The authority ruled that the written warning of July was unfair, and the dismissal was unjustified and unlawful.

“I find that a fair and reasonable employer could not have come to the conclusions that Lewis and Atwood (SPL executives), did regarding the incident in light of the evidence they had available,” said Robin Arthur, a member of the authority.

Botau claimed SPL was very selective in its disciplinary action, and had been too harsh on him. But the authority was not able to rule on Botau’s claims.

SPL has told Kiribati Independent that it had received the determination and would comply with it.

Northern Amalgamated Union said it would meet the employer in a few weeks time to discuss Retire’s return to work.

“I am delighted with the decision, I didn’t expect this. But I thank the union for its tireless effort in bringing my appeal to ERA, and my Lord for comforting me and my family during the difficult times that I have faced when I became jobless in January,” he said.

SPL employs around 75 I-Kiribati in Warkworth, north of Auckland.

Retire is the member of the Northern Amalgamated Union, which assisted him and represented him at the hearing.

Compensation
SPL is ordered to pay $4500 to Retire as compensation for humiliation and loss of dignity, and to pay $3500 as a contribution to Retire’s cost for bringing his personal grievance application. It was ordered too to reimburse $71.56 a cost for lodging his application with the authority.

Source: Kiribati Independent

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