Struggling Jaston Cartage right to sack driver

Queensland trucking operator under financial stress was right to sack its driver, Fair Work Australia says

By Brad Gardner | July 27, 2010

A trucking operator under financial stress was right to sack one of its drivers, Fair Work Australia has ruled.

Queensland small business Jaston Concrete Cartage has been cleared of unfair dismissal for terminating Alastair Francis Spruyt last year.

Jaston’s owner decided to fire Spruyt and begin driving the truck to save money after a decline in work led to the company defaulting on loan repayments.

Commissioner Ingrid Asbury accepted the company had to dismiss Spruyt to meet its financial obligations and keep its fleet of five trucks running.

"As a result of that decision, Jaston no longer required five drivers, and this was due to operational requirements," Asbury says.

Under the Fair Work Act, a company can make an employee redundant if the person’s job is not needed and if the person cannot be relocated within the business.

Asbury found there was no evidence Spruyt could have been redeployed.

However, she also accepted claims made by the driver he was sacked for complaining about wages and conditions.

Spruyt told Fair Work Australia he was not paid his correct entitlements such as overtime work and had contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman.

"Mr Spruyt maintained that while working for Jaston he was required to work excessive hours and that when he complained he was told to fake log books," Asbury says.

Despite this, Asbury ruled that the matter could not be dealt with because Jaston had proven the dismissal was based on genuine redundancy.

Furthermore, the company argued it chose Spruyt over the four other drivers because it had received complaints from a customer about his actions.

Spruyt told Fair Work Australia he was unaware of the complaints.

According to Jaston, it sought to reduce work hours to save money but realised it had to take more drastic action after receiving a repossession notice from the bank seeking a loan repayment for one of the trucks.

The matter was originally sent to conciliation but Spruyt elected to have his case heard.

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