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Unfair dismissal claims against Pacific National dismissed

A group of eight former employees of Pacific National Bulk Rail have had their unfair dismissal claims rejected by the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

After four days of hearings, it found that each worker lost their job because of a genuine redundancy arising from a changing business environment.

The catalyst for this change was a reduction in the number of trains required by GrainCorp and another Pacific National Bulk Rail customer. This was advised in March last year, and took effect from July 1. The applicants had been based at depots in Moss Vale, Narrabri, and Werris Creek in New South Wales.

The company, and its parent Asciano, was found to have immediately advised its workforce and the Rail, Tram and Bus Industry Union (RTBU) of its plans to negotiate redundancies and redeployment opportunities for the affected staff.

The consultation period that followed was likewise found to be genuine, with FWC senior deputy president Jonathan Hamberger noting that some aspects of the downsizing process were changed as a result of the employee feedback.

He says some of the eight applicants formed the view that the downsizing would not affect them, and therefore took little interest in the process.

"While some failed to attend meetings I am satisfied that this was more due to a lack of interest on their part, rather than because they had been prevented from attending by the respondent," Hamberger says.

"Even where employees were unable to attend the scheduled presentations, I am satisfied that they had other opportunities to make their views known."

Hamberger also found that the Asciano had made all reasonable effort to redeploy the staff, but was unable to meet specific demands for local work.

"None of the applicants applied for redeployment to any available roles. They either expressed no desire to be redeployed or were only interested if positions were available locally," he says. "None of the applicants were able to identify any alternative roles (that were actually available) to which it would have been reasonable to appoint them."

Story by Paul Howell

Repost from Australasian Transport News

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