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Issue #1619      November 20, 2013

Union wins reinstatement at Supreme Caravans

A caravan company worker wrongly sacked a year ago for wanting to take a piece of scrap metal home has won his job back with full restoration of lost wages after the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union ( AMWU) took his case to the Fair Work Commission.

Hung Pham said he owes his job to being a member of the AMWU, which proved his dismissal over a claim of theft was unfair and ill-founded because he had never intended to take the checker plate home without first getting the permission of management.

“I wouldn’t have been able to afford to go to the Fair Work Commission by myself, after I’ve come back to work I’ve had many people ask me about joining the union,” he said.

Supreme Caravans, based in Campbellfield in Melbourne’s north, has paid Mr Pham thousands of dollars in lost wages it owes him for the 41 weeks he was not working before he re-started in July.

Fair Work Commissioner John Ryan originally ruled in his favour in March.

But it was only in recent weeks that the company finally accepted the situation, after its application to appeal against the decision was rejected by a FWC Full Bench and a separate application to suspend the re-instatement was also rejected by Vice President Adam Hatcher.

AMWU organiser Robert Nguyen told AMWU News that just before smoko on Saturday morning, September, 29, 2012, Mr Pham had taken the checker plate from a recycle bin.

He had left the plate leaning against the front gate, intending to later get management’s okay to take it home, as he and others had done with other bits of scrap metal previous times.

But soon after, his supervisor saw the checker plate and took it upstairs to the office. Mr Pham, who did not see the supervisor for the rest of his shift and was unable to find the plate after work, thought no more of it.

He had wanted the scrap metal to catch oil leaking from his car.

The following Tuesday when he arrived at work at 7am Mr Pham was ordered to the office and asked by General Manager Josip Markovic why he had handled the plate, which the company claimed was found outside the gate.

Mr Pham, whose English is not fluent when put under extreme pressure, was told to go home and come back next day with his response.

Vietnamese-speaker Mr Nguyen went with him next morning but management refused to let the AMWU official speak or see a written version of the theft allegation, instead handing Mr Pham a pre-prepared dismissal notice.

At the initial Fair Work Australia hearing the company was represented by Mr Markovic, who failed to call witnesses in person and instead relied on unsworn statements.

Commissioner Ryan accepted the AMWU’s case that no intent of wrongdoing was proven and that Mr Pham had been unfairly pre-judged. The Commissioner ordered Superior Caravans to re-instate Mr Pham with backpay for lost wages.

Mr Nguyen said Supreme Caravans was a multi-ethnic workplace and those workers who did not have English as their first language needed to know that AMWU membership protected them.

“It’s satisfying to be able to help an innocent man win his job back, language should not be a barrier to workers’ rights and the AMWU has many officials from multi-cultural backgrounds. The AMWU has the backing of all workers,” he said.

Next article – Save Pilliga Forest: Stop CSG project

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