BHP right to sack truck driver: Fair Work

BHP Billiton was right to sack a driver for damaging a truck, Fair Work Australia says

By Brad Gardner | June 25, 2010

Mining giant BHP Billiton was right to sack a driver for damaging a truck, Fair Work Australia says.

Fair Work Deputy President Brendan McCarthy has rejected an unfair dismissal application from Leonard Brown who was terminated on June 29 last year for breaking the sight glass of the vehicle.

He found Brown did not follow BHP’s policy requiring all damage to be reported immediately and for adequate assistance to be given in any investigation that might follow.

"The respondent [BHP] is entitled to expect that its procedures are followed, although it does not follow that every failure to a follow a policy or practice is serious enough to warrant dismissal," McCarthy says.

"But a failure to follow established and indeed well known and express practices…a termination cannot be unexpected to be the resultant discipline an employer decides upon."

Brown says he acted truthfully and made efforts to contact his supervisor to advise him of the damage to the sight glass. He claims a co-worker tried to contact the supervisor by radio, but McCarthy questioned the accuracy of Brown’s evidence.

In his witness statement, Brown writes that he asked his co-worker to radio the supervisor; in his testimony he says the co-worker voluntarily contacted the supervisor.

"Further, I accept the evidence for the respondent that there was no record on the radio logs of the attempted contact," McCarthy says.

Brown also claims he searched for his supervisor during his lunch break to inform him of the damage.

"There is no evidence of that in his statement of evidence, nor any evidence of that endeavour in the records and evidence of interviews in the investigation undertaken by the respondent," McCarthy says.

"I therefore do not consider that the applicant [Brown] was a credible witness."

BHP argued Brown also dented the fuel tank and a bracket near the tank, but the driver argued he did not report the damages because he was unaware the they existed.

He says the company decided to sack him before investigating the incident and claims it accused him of lying about the damage to the tank and bracket despite his assertions of not knowing what happened.

McCarthy says BHP gave Brown an opportunity to respond to the allegations and notified him of the reasons for his sacking.

The 53-year-old Brown had worked more than 20 years for BHP.

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