Grievance claim costs firm $14,000
A cleaning company's crusade against a "roadblock" in the Employment Relations Act is becoming expensive, after it was ordered to pay more than $14,000 to an Auckland couple.
Aisea and Manu Fotu won a personal grievance suit against Crest Commercial Cleaning after being unjustifiably dismissed from their roles as cleaners at Taylors College.
The couple had previously worked for another company and when Crest took over the contract they were entitled by law to transfer their employment across.
On the day of the transfer the Fotus turned up at work as usual, expecting to meet their new employers.
But they later found out that Crest's managing director Grant McLaughlan had dismissed them as he said he had not received adequate documentation from their previous employer.
Crest has launched a website, www.vulnerableminister.co.nz, aimed at sparking debate around overhauling the relevant section of the Employment Relations Act, Part 6A.
Designed to protect vulnerable workers through periods of restructuring, Part 6A is described by Crest as "a roadblock to business confidence and growth".
Crest was caught in another Part 6A-related dispute earlier this year, which ultimately saw it ordered to pay a Nelson cleaner nearly $5,000.
The website objects to Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson's failure to undertake a statutory review of Part 6A that was scheduled to be completed some years ago.
But the Employment Relations Authority said Crest's protest could not justify a failure to comply with the law.
"Crest was not tripped up by the law but by its own failure to take the very simple and easy step of meeting with the Fotus and talking to them," the Authority said.
It also said McLaughlan was aware that protests needed to be aimed at legislators, rather than workers who he regarded as "pawns" in a game to get the law changed.
The Authority found that the Fotus were entirely blameless for the situation. Half their family income had been lost, and they had been embarrassed by having to borrow money from family members.
Aisea Fotu was awarded $2,193 in lost wages and $4,500 compensation, while Manu Fotu was awarded $3,071 and $4,500 compensation.
The Service & Food Workers Union, which took the case on behalf of the Fotus, was also awarded costs of $1000.
Meanwhile, Building Services Contractors have moved to distance themselves from the vulnerableminister.co.nz site.
It features a cartoon of a Minister balancing on a question mark. The company says it is posing ''a serious question about the lack of a decision on Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act.'' It is also selling coffee mugs printed with the cartoon.
BSC president Patrick Lee-Lo it in ''no way supported ridiculing the Minister.''
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