Council denies unfair dismissal

In order to avoid paying redundancy to an employee who had worked for it for 62 years, Launceston City Council is under suspicion of unfairly firing the 79-year-old. 

Rural Road Co-ordinator David Flynn, an employee of the council since he was 17, was fired for alleged breaches of workplace safety. However, Kath Ryman, of the Victoria–Tasmania branch of the Australian Services Union (ASU) claims that the council targeted David Flynn simply to avoid paying him a redundancy.

Mr Flynn would have received $100,000 for his 62 years of employment.

“The problem is that council have failed to genuinely investigate and consider evidence that was provided by the ASU to show that the same practices that constituted David’s alleged safety breaches are commonly used practices across the organisation,” said Ms Ryman.

Launceston City Council General Manager Robert Dobrzynski defended the council’s decision, saying it was regrettable, but it was also a last resort action. He would not provide details of Mr Flynn’s dismissal, however, he did state: “The council has a legal obligation to take decisive action to address repeated instances of unsafe work practices, particularly when numerous attempts have been made to provide support and training. In cases where we are forced to take this course of action, we follow a robust and procedurally fair process and the employee is provided with reasons behind the decision that has led to termination.”

Ms Ryman believes that the council made its decision after being privy to a recent review of his department that may have recommended making Mr Flynn’s position redundant.

Mr Dobrzynski denied Ms Ryman’s allegation that Mr Flynn was terminated to avoid a redundancy payout.

“I think it’s really rich for the union, who has a mantra of workplace safety as extremely important, as a priority, to be saying that because this person has been working for the council for 62 [years] that somehow different rules apply.”

“We do take workplace safety seriously.”

Read more at The Examiner.

Opinion: Hard to judge this one 

Without access to all the facts, it’s certainly difficult to make a decision about who is right or wrong in this situation.

David Flynn started work at age 17. He has been at the same council for 62 years. That makes him 79-years-old. So, hats off to Mr Flynn for his long career.

It is also worth mentioning that Tasmanian councils have a good history of employing older Australians, with many instances of senior workers having been employed by local government for 30–50 years. So, hats off to Tasmanian councils as well.

Whether or not this is a case of age discrimination, we may never know. Maybe the council was looking for a reason to dump Mr Flynn. Maybe Mr Flynn had made one too many mistakes and just wasn’t willing to undergo the necessary training to avoid making the same errors in the future. Maybe he endangered lives. Maybe someone just didn’t like him.

Maybe he deserved a little more respect because of the number of years he’d worked for his employer.

Whatever the reason for Mr Flynn’s dismissal, there is a mediation process available that is designed to effectively resolve these types of disputes. The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) does have an effective means of mediating situations such as these, if only Mr Flynn had gone to the commission before seeking the backing of his union.

The ASU has certainly gained the attention of the media, but will it get a satisfactory result for My Flynn?

For more information on the AHRC and the Age Discrimination Act, visit www.humanrights.gov.au

What do you think of this situation? Do you think this treatment of Mr Flynn is unfair? Or do you feel that, if he was indeed in the wrong, that this is the right course of action for the council to take? Do you think that this is a case of Age Discrimination? What would you have done if you were in the council’s position?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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