Union official who was sacked after refusing to go to Dublin forfeits his right to unfair dismissal
A former Connect union organizer has lost his right to unfair dismissal for refusing to accept a temporary assignment in Dublin.
Lan Douglas filed a complaint under the Unfair Dismissals Act against the union over his dismissal in July 2019.
His representative argued the proposed move was “inconsistent” with his contract of employment or his defined role in the union as designated construction officer based in Limerick – a job he had held for three and a half years in an area on the west coast.
Siptu organizer Gerard Kennedy, appearing for Mr Douglas, said the proposed move followed complaints from an administrative worker at the union’s Limerick office about alleged interactions by Mr Douglas with her, which he said were “unfounded” and never officially investigated had been.
The allegations, details of which were not made public in the decision published today, were discussed at a series of meetings in late 2018 before the complainant was informed that the union’s general secretary, Paddy Kavanagh, had decided he should be relocated to Dublin Helping with an organizing campaign in January 2019, Mr. Kennedy said.
“The planned move damaged his good reputation, [and] profession and was a clear violation of it [his] terms of the contract, his right to due process, natural justice and due process,” Kennedy said.
He said his client’s working conditions forced him to move and settle in the Limerick area.
His client applied to work in the Limerick office in February 2019 and was subsequently instructed in writing by the Secretary-General to go to Dublin, he said.
An email this month was followed by a letter saying he was needed three days a week for the unions’ campaign in the capital for six months, the WRC has heard.
The Secretary-General then escalated the matter to Connect’s Executive Management Committee for investigation, which then led to a disciplinary hearing on May 15, 2019, he said.
Mr. Kennedy argued that the trial had procedural flaws, including that the letter inviting his client to attend did not set out any charges against him, nor did it state that the hearing could result in a dismissal.
Mr Douglas met the union’s general secretary, Mr Kavanagh, and his deputy general secretary, Brian Nolan, on July 4, 2019 at Trinity College, where he was notified of his immediate dismissal, Mr Kennedy said.
The letter told him to turn over all his union belongings, including his car, mobile phone, laptop and keys, and a taxi had been arranged to take him home in Limerick.
Eamon Devoy, the union’s former general secretary, appeared as their representative at the hearing.
“Although it is terminology rarely used by unions, the legal position in this case is that the complainant is … in an employment relationship as described by the law and [is] expected to carry out all lawful orders or face the consequences,” he argued.
“Over a period of six months, the complainant repeatedly refused to carry out the General Secretary’s instructions, contrary to his contract of employment and the rules of the union,” added Mr Devoy.
He said Mr Douglas had been asked to work from the Dublin office for 13 weeks to take part in a recruitment campaign – and the union was willing to put him up in a hotel for the duration and a counter-proposal of a three-year day-week.
It was a “purely temporary measure to meet an “urgent and immediate business need” as the construction sector in Dublin “enjoyed an unprecedented boom at the end of 2018”.
He said a disciplinary hearing concluded that Mr Douglas was “unwilling to commit to a resolution of the matter” and he was ultimately dismissed on a finding of gross misconduct.
The union denied that the proposed move was either a response to the problem at the Limerick office or a disciplinary step, and denied having wrongly dismissed Mr Douglas.
In his decision, sentencing officer Peter O’Brien said he had considered the argument that the proposed move was to “resolve problems at the Limerick office” but found that “none of the evidence was so convincing that it would be relevant in that regard”. .
Mr O’Brien felt it was both contractual and fair for the union to require Mr Douglas to travel to Dublin on a part-time basis and he had therefore refused reasonable instruction.
There were some “procedural flaws” but overall the process was “fair and reasonable” and any flaws could not justify removing the substantive ground for termination.
https://www.independent.ie/news/trade-union-official-sacked-after-refusing-to-go-to-dublin-loses-his-claim-for-unfair-dismissal-41640588.html Union official who was sacked after refusing to go to Dublin forfeits his right to unfair dismissal