Bulldozer driver awarded $30k over badly handled redundancy

Graham Piner won his case against his former employer Blakely Mining Ltd.
TOM PULLAR-STRECKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Graham Piner won his case against his former employer Blakely Mining Ltd.

A Christchurch bulldozer driver has been awarded $30,000 after a botched redundancy left him humiliated, depressed and unable to sleep.

Former Blakely's Mining Ltd employee Graham Piner has been compensated after the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found last month he was unfairly dismissed. 

Superannuitant Piner, who worked for the company from July 2014 to his dismissal in April last year, told the ERA his redundancy was triggered when a grader he was driving got stuck.

Blakely's managing director, Edward Blakely, was furious, Piner said. Four days later he received notice of his redundancy. He was the only employee at the site made redundant.

READ MORE: Unfairly dismissed bus driver has payout doubled to $20k

After the job loss, he felt "numb, embarrassed and belittled" as he worked out his notice. He had trouble sleeping and was prescribed anti-depressants. Losing his job made him feel "useless and frustrated".

The ERA found Blakely's breached its general duty of good faith and failed to undertake a fair process and consultation. 

It awarded $15,818 in lost wages, $10,000 in compensation and $3,500 in representation costs.

"Blakely's remained obliged to carry out a fair process and consultation with Piner. It failed to do so," the ERA said.

​Blakely maintained before the ERA that the dismissal was unrelated to the grader incident and he simply no longer needed a bulldozer driver.

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The manager said a "management restructure" was discussed in a staff meeting in February last year and a letter detailing possible job losses was discussed.

He told the ERA all employees were aware that work at the company was drying up and Piner indicated he would not mind leaving.

​"Would you all please have a think about your individual circumstances and come back to me with any ideas or other opportunities," the letter said.

Piner said talk at the meeting centred on a management restructure, but as he was not a manager, he was not concerned.

Shortly after, he was given his notice.

He had a hefty mortgage and "relied greatly" on his income because his superannuation failed to cover costs, Piner told the ERA.

He and his wife already had a boarder in the spare room so they could not increase their income by renting it out, as Blakely suggested, he said.

 - Stuff

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