Trucker goes to court to win back job
By LUIS FELIU
Fears new IR laws will stop similar legal cases
A COURT win by a Murwillumbah trucker and union delegate against a major sugar transport company which was ordered to reinstate him has signalled the passing of an era in industrial relations, it was claimed yesterday.
The NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) last week ordered the company, Specialised Container Transport (SCT), to compensate and reinstate transport driver Steve Purdy, of Kiel Vale, to his old job after it found the company's hiring practices were deliberately biased, resulting in his victimisation and sidelining.
The Transport Workers Union (TWU), which ran the case, says under new industrial laws passed by the Senate last Friday, employees wanting to run similar unfair dismissal cases now face huge financial barriers.
All such cases will have to be pursued through the Federal Court, which would be both lengthy and costly.
Mr Purdy, 59, who had worked for Mills Transport for nine years, had raised safety concerns as a union delegate about various work practices, including the overloading of cane bins.
When Mills lost the sugar haulage contract to SCT, he and almost the entire Mills workforce applied for the same jobs. While many of his workmates were successful, he was not.
"I approached the new contractor on behalf of the men and made those safety concerns known so they could be ironed out before the start of the season this year, and when they didn't take me on I assumed it was because of this," he said.
The IRC agreed and or- dered he be reinstated and employed with SCT for the duration of its 10-year contract with the Condong mill.
"My workmates were reluctant to show support for me because they were in fear of losing their jobs as they had signed up to AWAs (workplace agreements) with the new contractor," said Mr Purdy, who is now working part-time for Mills Transport in Murwillumbah.
"It seems that unfair dismissal and victimisation cases in future will be more difficult to pursue.
"Certainly you won't be able to do it as an individual and unions will be restricted in what they can do.
"There is so much fear with people moving on to AWAs. It's OK for John Howard to say it'll all work out, but people are fearful of what may happen in the next few years."