"It is a bit disheartening"
Dismissal 'harsh, unjust and
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
"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
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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