Hutt bus driver gets $10,000 after sacking
Ever wanted to tell the boss to stick the job where the sun don't shine? A Hutt Valley bus driver did and has been awarded $10,000 after her hasty sacking.
Cazna Waaka, 44, of Taita, learned on an early shift in January that a cousin had died in her native King Country, and she planned to ask her Valley Flyer bosses for time off to attend the tangi. When she got to the Waterloo depot, she had her two children, aged 5 and 11, on the bus with her. Regional operations manager Lori Bradley noticed the children and asked why they were unattended on the bus with the engine running.
Ms Waaka, a driver with 13 years experience, responded: "Well, who else is supposed to look after my children then, eh?"
She then became frustrated that Ms Bradley was not listening to her, Employment Relations Authority member Michele Ryan said. Ms Waaka said Ms Bradley told her to "go home now", to which Ms Waaka responded: "Fine then, I will, you're a f...ing bitch anyway."
The authority heard that Ms Bradley responded by walking back towards Ms Waaka and said: "I would watch what you say to me if you want to keep your job."
Ms Waaka said she then told Ms Bradley: "You can stick your job up your f...ing arse."
Ms Bradley told the authority she felt intimidated by Ms Waaka and described her behaviour as "vicious".
Valley Flyer further told the authority Ms Waaka had repudiated her employment agreement as her behaviour constituted "gross insubordination".
However, Ms Ryan found Valley Flyer had not complied with its own agreed disciplinary process. She ordered it to pay Ms Waaka $6000 for that failure and a further $4000 for unjustified dismissal. She also found Ms Waaka was 50 per cent responsible for the situation that gave rise to the unjustified dismissal.
Ms Waaka agreed yesterday that mistakes were made on both sides. "At the time it happened, everything was on top of me," she said. "I had just learned about my cousin's tangi. I found myself more of a mother than a bus driver.
"I'd been a union delegate for 10 years and I think they were happy to pay the money to get rid of me. I've still got a lot of good friends who are bus drivers."
The unexpected $10,000 windfall would go to good use, she said.
"I'm getting married in the new year. The money will help to pay for the wedding in Upper Hutt."
Her partner is also a bus driver. "I don't think I should name him - fullstop."
Shane McMahon, chief operating officer of NZ Bus, which owns Valley Flyer, wished Ms Waaka "all the best for her future".
Employment lawyer Peter Cullen said a general rule was that if an employee told the boss in colourful language to stick the job, the worker could expect to be sacked. "But employers should calm down, let the dust settle and go through a proper process."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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