Cleaner who showed ‘utter disregard’ to duties unfairly dismissed after 27 years at aviation body - WRC
Posted on 15th February 2023 at 21:57
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has been ordered to pay four weeks’ wages in compensation for the unfair dismissal of a cleaner who was found to have shown “utter disregard towards her duties” after 27 years’ employment at its Shannon aviation radio station.
The Workplace Relations Commission found the fairness of Anne Millar’s dismissal from her job at the IAA’s North Atlantic Communications broadcasting station in Co Clare had been “fatally imperilled” by procedural defects, but that she had made a substantial contribution to her own dismissal.
The WRC found that the “key” unfairness was that the disciplinary process right up to the decision to dismiss was carried out by the complainant’s line manager and her supervisor.
The authority had argued her sacking was a lawful termination on the grounds of underperformance.
Ms Millar’s trade union, Fórsa, argued at a hearing that the complaints of underperformance had come from a party with a “vested interest” – another cleaner employed by a subcontractor.
The tribunal was told Ms Millar, whose employment dated back to 1994, was the very last cleaner still employed directly by the IAA under a public sector services attendant contract.
This was contract on foot of an industrial agreement which would not see her work outsourced until she resigned or retired – a situation which had persisted from 2002 to 2021.
The WRC accepted Ms Millar was “aware that her performance was inadequate” and that she “consistently reverted to underperforming”.
“The extent of the underperformance was, in my view, unacceptable. The complainant showed an utter disregard towards her duties and management instructions,” wrote adjudicating officer Ewa Sobanska in her decision.
She said other workers and the contracted cleaner did make complaints against Ms Millar but that there was “nothing” to suggest they carried out an “investigation” into Ms Millar’s performance, which had been “monitored by the management”.
The adjudicator wrote that the “key” unfairness in the process was the “multiplicity of roles” taken on by Ms Millar’s line manager Dave Winship and supervisor Ray Whitsell – and that it would have been “responsible and prudent” to provide more separation.
“The whole process up to and including dismissal was carried out by Mr Winship, the complainant’s line manager, who was accompanied by Mr Whitsell, who supervised the complainant on a day-to-day basis,” she wrote.
Other procedural failings in the case included not providing Ms Millar with a record of the statements of other employees and the contract cleaner who were witnesses and had no opportunity to question them, and the failure to consider sanctions short of dismissal.
Ms Sobanska opted not to order the authority to reinstate Anne Millar to her job, as she had sought as a remedy for unfair dismissal, with an adjudicating officer reasoning that it was “not a practical option” in light of what the respondent called a “serious breach of trust”.
She ordered the IAA to pay Ms Millar €2,815 in compensation.
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