Age claim thrown out in job fight

STEVE HOPKINS
Last updated 05:00 27/11/2012

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A man made redundant from his shipwright position at Fullers after more than 30 years service has had a claim he was unjustifiably dismissed because of his age rejected.

Keith Andersen complained to the Employment Relations Authority after his job was disestablished on 9 September 2011, after 33 years. He claimed he had been both unjustifiably dismissed and discriminated against because of his age.

The authority heard that Fullers undertook a review of its operations in 2009 and Andersen's maintenance department was looked into as part of that in October 2010.

In August 2011 Andersen was advised of a proposal to disestablish his job. After that was formalised and Andersen had been paid redundancy and associated leaving allowances, he continued to discuss redeployment with Fullers.

The authority was told Andersen's position was disestablished because Fullers could save money without "operational inefficiency following".

"It had been finding it increasingly difficult to produce sufficient volumes of work for that position," a recent authority decision notes. Andersen's job had since been done by a contractor one day a fortnight, Fullers said.

The authority said the redundancy was "genuine" but described the review document that outlined why Andersen's position wasn't required as "at best, inadequate and at worst, misleading".

The decision notes that Fullers also discussed vacant positions of marine maintenance engineer and store person with Andersen.

A union representative advising Andersen suggested he could do an adult apprenticeship in marine engineering "that might allow him to aspire to one of the vacancies", but Fullers said that would not be cost effective and they needed "an immediate human resource, not a prospective future one".
 
Andersen didn't have the extensive parts knowledge to be a store person, the decision reads.

Another role as a Master was also suggested. Andersen had previously served as one, but the decision notes that was on an older-style vessel and during Andersen's time in that role he'd been involved in an accident at the Devonport wharf which caused significant damage.

The last role Fullers considered Andersen for was a summer job working in onboard customer service.

"The short point is that Mr Andersen was a long serving employee of Fullers Group and, as a man of mature years, his natural inclination was to remain with his longstanding employer in whatever role could be found," the decision reads.
 
Fullers said Andersen would have had a "huge difficulty" fitting into that role which was largely done by younger staff, and wasn't interested in it due to it being a short term position.

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After all of the redeployment options were eliminated a union representative approached Fullers management and a six month job as a freight assistant was offered to Andersen which he accepted.

The authority found any discrimination against Andersen because of his age was "slight", even though Fullers admitted the reason he wasn't suitable for the onboard services role was because he was too old.

The position was also unsuitable because the hourly rate was significantly less than what he was paid as a shipwright, the job required quick cash handling skills and other staff were "a generation younger than he was".
 
The authority rejected both of Andersen's claims.

- Auckland Now

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