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July 2017


Billabong caravan

Billabong: "It is a bit disheartening"

Dismissal 'harsh, unjust and unreasonable'

Caravan builder hits back after being ordered to pay sacked worker $15,000

By Dennis Amor
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A WELL-renowned caravan manufacturer says it is becoming more difficult for companies to run their own businesses and conform to new regulations.

The claim comes after Victoria-based Billabong Custom Caravans was ordered to pay a former worker, who took time off to have his daughter baptised in Malta, $15,000 for unfair dismissal.

The Fair Work Commission decided the sacking of caravan finisher Ruben Galea was "harsh, unjust and unreasonable".

But a spokesperson for the company told Caravanning News: "We provide workers with a safe working environment, listen to their suggestions for a better working environment ... and still some employees attempt all means they can to legally obtain more financial benefit.

"We understand some employers take advantage of their workers and need the systems in place to make them adhere to regulations.

"But when you try and satisfy all requirements and still get penalised it is a bit disheartening."

Mr Galea had worked for the Campbellfield manufacturer from 2010 to 2016.

Billabong's claim that he had taken six-and-a-half weeks off without approval was rejected by Fair Work deputy president Val Gostencnik.

In his written decision, he said the evidence had been consistent with a Billabong official approving or "at the very least acquiescing" Mr Galea's annual holiday.

"Relying on the taking of unauthorised leave as a reason for the dismissal bears all the hallmark of a recent invention and is not supported by the evidence," Mr Gostencnik said.

He referred to the "informality" of the way employees could apply for leave.

The company maintained that Mr Galea had been reluctant to train a new employee engaged to cover his work during his absence, resulting in production being slowed down.

It claimed he had also convinced other workers to slow down production.

The decision said Mr Galea had admitted refusing to train a replacement employee ‒ identified as Ben ‒ "for a couple of days" because he was upset over being refused bonus money, but claimed he ultimately did help the replacement with training.

The Commission believed Mr Galea's subsequent termination by 'phone was unreasonable and that he did not engage in the conduct that Billabong alleged led to the sacking.

It has rejected Mr Galea's application for costs.


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Copyright 2005 Dennis Amor
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