Unions support: employers slam industrial umpire's decision

Mark Dunn - Herald Sun
February 20, 2010 12:00AM

A MAN who won a landmark unfair dismissal case this week to get his job back says he should never have been sacked.

Paul Quinlivan, of Jindera, NSW, was sacked last September for failing to follow four orders from managers to wear safety goggles while collecting staples from a paper recycling tank.

But the nation's industrial umpire ruled the man must be reinstated and paid compensation because of his poor education and poor job prospects.

Fair Work Australia found Mr Quinlivan had engaged in "relatively serious misconduct", but ruled the sacking harsh due to his length of service and the fact he was a poorly educated middle-aged family man.

Mr Quinlivan, a father of two, has been awarded $16,000 in back pay and resumes work at Norske Skog Paper Mills in Albury on Monday.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry have hit out at the Fair Work Australia decision to hand back his job.

VECCI workplace relations manager Alexandra Marriott said it presented a double jeopardy for employers insisting on workers wearing safety equipment without relying on potential dismissal for non-compliance.

"Employers need to have certainty in making employment decisions that are appropriate and measured, whether with regards to terminating or performance managing an employee - and in particular, should have the capacity to terminate the employment of an employee where their own conduct is so extreme as to endanger other employees and undermine the integrity of the relationship with management," she said.

Mr Quinlivan said he and a co-worker had refused to wear the safety goggles because they fogged up. He said he looked forward to returning to work.