A train driver has lost his unfair dismissal claim and ordered to pay costs after being sacked for safety breaches.
The Fair Work Commission heard the driver doggedly refused a number of offers to settle the matter.
Deputy president Peter Sams described the 79 year-old man as “belligerent” for refusing to accept responsibility for the breaches.
He also suggested the driver should have accepted one of the number of generous offers to settle.
Belligerent train driver loses unfair dismissal
Subeg Singh worked for Sydney Trains for 34-years before two safety breaches resulted in his dismissal.
Firstly, an investigation found Singh “missed” a warning light and failed to warn workers to “jump out of the way” of an approaching train.
In a second incident, Singh also failed to warn a worker of an on-coming train.
Doggedly rejects generous offers to settle
Singh denied the allegations and subsequently filed an unfair dismissal claim demanding reinstatement.
Inexplicably, he maintained this position despite a number of offers to settle the matter.
For example, Sydney Trains offered reinstatement to a non-safety critical role or compensation above what his claim could achieve.
At one point, Sydney Trains even offered Singh:
- $70,000, an amount equivalent to six months pay plus overtime;
- a Gold Travel Pass;
- and treatment of his sacking as a resignation.
Worker’s demands ‘unreasonable’
Deputy president Sams dismissed Singh’s unfair dismissal claim.
Sydney Trains subsequently applied for Singh to pay its costs.
It described the driver’s dogged refusal to accept anything short of reinstatement as “unreasonable”.
Mr Sams agreed, finding reinstatement “would be utterly unthinkable” given Singh’s refusal to accept any responsibility for the safety incidents.
“His belligerent denial of any wrongdoing is so gravely concerning, that I am satisfied the employer’s trust and confidence in him has been permanently destroyed.”
Furthermore, Mr Sams said Singh should have accepted the offer made by Sydney Trains.
“A settlement amount in excess of the compensation cap, even assuming he was wholly successful, should have been an active consideration for Mr Singh at that point.”
He ordered Singh to pay Sydney Trains’s costs.
No job, no compensation, just a big bill
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan described Singh’s conduct as “gob-smacking”.
“It is rare in an unfair dismissal case that an employer offers six months pay,” he said.
“Not to mention a lifetime of free train travel, in addition to a letter describing the dismissal as a resignation.
“If we were representing Mr Singh, we would have advised him to grab that offer with both hands and run.
“He has obviously received some very poor advice – either that, or he was just too pig headed or stupid to realise how good the offer was.
“Now he’s left with no job, no compensation, and a big bill for his former employer’s legal costs.”
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