A Jetstar engineer, hungry and wanting lunch, decided to drive to drive his tow tug out of an airport security gate onto a public road and then into a nearby BP service station to buy something to eat.
Tow tugs are powerful machines used to haul aircraft and are not registered to drive on public roads. Jetstar viewed the engineer’s luncheon excursion at Avalon airport as most unorthodox, to put it mildly.
Jetstar fired aircraft maintenance engineer Raghbir Gill for his action – but the Fair Work Commission has ordered the airline to give him back his job. In ordering Jetstar to reinstate Gill’s job, Fair Work Commissioner Anna-Lee Cribb said the 60-year-old worker was very hungry.
“Mr Gill’s evidence, that all he was thinking about was getting his lunch and that he did not think about the safety regulations, is accepted. Mr Gill’s evidence was that he was absolutely focused on getting lunch (he had started work at 4.30am and this was 12 noon and he had not had a break). This was in the context of the situation not being the normal situation. This was because it was usual for a Jetstar van to be available.”
Jetstar was ordered to reinstate Gill’s job, despite the airline being reluctant to do so.
Gill will take up a position as a a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer at Tullamarine Airport rather than at Avalon Airport but he will not be able to recover the pay he lost since his termination after the incident last July.
“In all of the circumstances of this matter, and having taken account of each of the factors set out in section 387, I determine that Mr Gill’s dismissal was harsh,” Commissioner Cribb said.
“On the one hand, there was a valid reason for Mr Gill’s dismissal. This was that Mr Gill drove an unregistered vehicle on a public road and that the vehicle he drove was not fit for purpose.
“On the other hand, Mr Gill’s decision to drive the tow tug outside of the airport, was not deliberate or intentional or a conscious disregard of the safety rules in that Mr Gill was not consciously aware of the ramifications of his decision. Further, because of his age (60 years old) and the current state of the aircraft maintenance industry, Mr Gill’s prospects of finding comparable alternative employment are poor.
“The financial consequences of the dismissal on Mr Gill and his family have been severe due to his mortgage liabilities. Further, Mr Gill had an unblemished record prior to the incident and Mr Gill was treated differently compared with other employees.
“In balancing all of these factors, I find that Mr Gill’s dismissal was harsh.
“Accordingly, it follows that, pursuant to section 385 of the Act, Mr Gill was unfairly dismissed.”
The Fair Work Commission’s full decision can be viewed on: https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2016FWC1472.htm
Written by Peter Needham