Sacked miners want jobs back, dispute decision

TWO mining supervisors sacked by Thiess Pty Ltd from Burton Downs Coal Mine, south-west of Mackay, are fighting to get their jobs back in an unfair dismissal hearing before the Fair Work Commission.

The long-serving employees with 26 years between them, claim Thiess fired them on May 8 to avoid paying large redundancy packages because it was done just months before hundreds of Thiess employees were made redundant.

Former Thiess supervisors at Burton Downs Coal Mine Adrian Ward (left) and Allan Baker.
Former Thiess supervisors at Burton Downs Coal Mine Adrian Ward (left) and Allan Baker. Ross Irby

Both men had clean employment histories and between them they would have received around $250,000 in any redundancy package.

The workplace relations tribunal hearing held in Mackay before vice president Adam Hatcher heard both men were terminated after Mr Baker, a field supervisor, left the open-cut mine site on March 27 - allegedly just hours into his overnight shift.

Mr Baker, through Jennifer Short, of Taylors Solicitors, asserts he received verbal permission from a superintendent to allow him to travel to

Mackay for an early medical appointment with a skin cancer specialist on the provision he had done his checks and reports and had someone cover his role, and no specific time was given.

Mr Baker recalled leaving around 2.30am but Thiess, represented by barrister Greg Sheahan, alleges he left the site hours earlier, around 9.30pm, but had no permission to leave until around 4am.

Thiess says he seriously breached his contract and mine safety procedures, a claim refuted by Mr Baker, who said he fulfilled his duties and did all reports. Thiess says three reports were not found.

Mr Ward was terminated for breach of trust, on the basis that he had not been truthful after telling Thiess he could not remember the exact time Mr Baker had left the site but believed it had been around 1am.

It had also been a wet night at the mine and production stopped for some hours during the shift.

Thiess alleges Mr Baker made a serious breach of contract by breaching procedures and that he left during a "critical phase" of operation. Mr Baker disputes this.

Legal argument was that their termination was harsh, unjust and unreasonable.

A Thiess witness, the superintendent who approved Mr Baker leaving early - but for 4am - admitted under cross examination that he himself had been terminated for misuse of a company credit card.



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