Tortured Star Track 'traffic cop' lashes out at TWU bullies

Star Track Express supervisor repeatedly abused and bullied lashes out at his TWU tormentors during a fiery exchange

Tortured Star Track 'traffic cop' lashes out at TWU bullies
Tortured Star Track 'traffic cop' lashes out at TWU bullies
By Brad Gardner | July 22, 2011

Fair Work Australia has launched a blistering attack on the Transport Workers Union for bullying a Star Track Express supervisor to the point where he lashed out at his tormentors.

Ebi Shabani Pour was subjected to more than three days of sustained verbal abuse from a fellow Star Track employee and TWU member, Andrew Lowe, for reminding him to comply with the company’s Safe Roads policy.

The policy is part of Star Track’s occupational health and safety guidelines and obliges workers to walk along a set path to avoid contact with forklifts and other machinery.

When Pour asked him to stay on the correct path, Lowe told him to "f**k off" and derided him as a "traffic cop". The confrontation sparked three more days of verbal torture directed at Pour, with Lowe repeatedly telling him to "f**k off", calling him a "stupid a**hole", "traffic cop" and "f**king a**hole".

Fed up with the constant abuse, Pour called on his managers to act. He told Lowe he had reported him, to which he responded: "I have union support behind me, you can’t do anything. Go and report it to management. They can’t touch me."

A meeting was organised involving management, Pour, two TWU delegates and Lowe, where the latter admitted to abusing the supervisor.

Although the meeting was an attempt to resolve the situation, it descended into obscenities and threats.

"What the f**k is this Safe Roads [policy] about?" TWU delegate Leo Hackett demanded, before adding: "None of the f**king managers have told us about this program and we don’t know about it. You are policing us and spying on us. We will tell all the handlers to start spying on you from tomorrow."

Hackett told management that Lowe did not have to comply with the policy, which Star Track says has been in place for three years, and that Pour should not have "bothered" the TWU member.

Pour says Lowe sat through the meeting making faces at him, at which point the supervisor lost his cool and snapped.

"I was just trying to do my job. I have been polite with you and everyone else. I spoke to people with respect and expected the same from people. If you swear at me one more time I will punch you in the face and will f**k you," he threatened Lowe.

The outburst, which Pour regretted and expressed remorse for, prompted the delegates and Lowe to leave the meeting and Star Track to sack the supervisor for misconduct. Pour subsequently launched an unfair dismissal claim against his former employer.

Senior Deputy President Lea Drake found that Star Track’s actions were unjust and unfair, and she lined up the TWU for its behaviour during the dust-up.

"Mr Lowe had an obligation to follow the policy and do as he was told. Mr Lowe was not entitled to swear at Mr Pour, or to pursue him and bully him, which I find that he did over a number of days," Drake says in her written judgement.

"The conduct of the TWU delegates at the meeting was entirely unsatisfactory. It was inappropriate in relation to Mr Pour and also the manager conducting the meeting. The delegates and Mr Lowe incited Mr Pour’s inappropriate response at the meeting."

Drake chastised Lowe for his "derogatory and humiliating conduct" and labelled as "incomprehensible" the TWU’s opposition to a policy implemented for the benefit of all employees.

"Instead of dealing with their member’s breach of policy they sought to divert attention from his failure by berating and attempting to bully Star Track management and Mr Pour," she says.

"In respect of Mr Pour they succeeded. They and Mr Lowe provoked an otherwise polite, civilised and admirable man with an exemplary employment record to behave in an entirely uncharacteristic and inappropriate manner.

"The circumstance demonstrated a complete dereliction of the TWU’s delegate’s [sic] obligations in relation to the policy and I find that their course of conduct amounted to bullying and a misuse of influence from which they should refrain in future."

Pour told Fair Work Australia he felt the delegates were trying to blame him for the workplace dispute and that management did not support him or address Lowe’s behaviour during the meeting.

While Drake says Pour’s threat amounted to misconduct and was a valid reason for termination, she says Star Track acted harshly.

She says Pour’s emotional state, the uncharacteristic nature of his outburst, remorse for his actions and the "extreme provocation" from Lowe and the union delegates meant the supervisor should not have lost his job.

She also considered Pour’s lengthy employment of almost 14 years with the company.

After Pour’s outburst his manager pleaded with the delegates and Lowe to continue the meeting, saying: "I know Ebi and he is not that sort of character. Please let him explain. I’m sure he didn’t mean it."

Drake says the comment accurately represented Pour’s true character and typical conduct. She has given Star Track and Pour 21 days to reach an agreement on an acceptable remedy.

A spokesperson for the TWU declined to comment on the case when contacted by ATN.

"It’s a matter between Star Track and the manager. The TWU has had no involvement with this case," the spokesperson says.

A representative for Star Track says the company is studying the decision and that it could not comment until the matter had concluded. However, the spokesperson emphasised the Safe Roads policy is a high priority for the company and an important part of its commitment to workplace safety.

"This commitment has not changed," the spokesperson says.

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