STRUGGLE: Peter Watts, a dad of three, spent the year working for his brother-in-law's company after he was unfairly sacked.
STRUGGLE: Peter Watts, a dad of three, spent the year working for his brother-in-law's company after he was unfairly sacked. Peter Watts

Mine forced to re-hire sacked worker, pay him $103K

A HIGHLY-PAID mine worker who scored a $100,000 Fair Work Commission payout after being sacked is now back working at the same mine.

Father of three, Peter Watts was awarded $103,427.54 from Oaky Creek Coal mine after the details of the situation that led to his sacking were laid bare in a Fair Work case.

According to Fair Work documents, the long-running working relationship between Mr Watts, a supervisor, and his colleague at Oaky Creek Coal mine ended with complaints of "hostile, intimidating, and threatening" behaviour and the unfair sacking of Mr Watts.

Mr Watts became a sales assistant at his brother-in-law's company after he was sacked, with his salary dropping by more than $100,000. The mine has now been forced to re-employ him for no less than the salary he left on, which was in excess of $140,000.

STRUGGLE: Peter Watts, a dad of three, spent the year working for his brother-in-law's company after he was unfairly sacked.
STRUGGLE: Peter Watts, a dad of three, spent the year working for his brother-in-law's company after he was unfairly sacked. Peter Watts

Mr Watts confirmed that he is back at Oaky Creek Mine in a similar position.

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Mr Watts, who worked in the mining industry for about a decade, including in a senior position, struggled to find a foot back in the door of the industry after being sacked.

He believed another supervisor, referred to as Mr X in Fair Work documents, developed a set against him as Mr Watts believed the mine's management was handing him duties and responsibilities of Mr X's position. Colleagues told Mr Watts that Mr X was "badmouthing (him)" around the site.

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STUNNING WIN: Peter Watts is back earning the big bucks after a stunning win against his employer.
STUNNING WIN: Peter Watts is back earning the big bucks after a stunning win against his employer. Contributed

Mr Watts approached a senior site executive, operations manager Bradley Sauer, at a leadership function at the Civic Centre in Tieri - a nearby town where the mine has bought homes for its miners to live - to ask how he should deal with Mr X. Mr Sauer's response left Mr Watts worried for his job.

"Let me tell you about how I handled a similar situation," Mr Sauer said, according to the Fair Work documents.

"When I first took on the job of CHPP Superintendent I witnessed the maintenance superintendent abusing some of my employees.

"I then waited until he was in his office and no one was around, walked in, gave him a serve and walked out. I didn't have any problem after that."

STUNNING WIN: A mine worker is back on the big buck after clocking up a huge win against his employer.
STUNNING WIN: A mine worker is back on the big buck after clocking up a huge win against his employer. Meghan Kidd

He then, according to the documents, said something to the effect of: "Then when I became manager I made him redundant and if you don't stop your s**t stirring I'll make you redundant."

The conflict between Mr Watts and Mr X escalated on one particular day, when Mr Watts found Mr X had left a hazard notice from a contractor on his desk.

Assuming Mr X had passed on work, Mr Watts gave the hazard notice to a colleague, Nicholas Wandke, who handed the hazard notice back to Mr X. On doing this, Mr Wandke claimed Mr X had "blown up" and said Mr Watts wasn't doing his job.

Tension again rose later that day when a colleague of the pair, Reece Stewart, asked Mr X how his day was going.

Mr X looked directly at Mr Watts and loudly said: "Good, except some f***wits around here aren't doing their job."

Later that day, Mr Watts chose to walk up to Mr X's desk and finally act on the advice he'd been given by Mr Sauer at the Civic Centre.

"If you have a problem, then I am ready to sort it out when you're f***ing ready," he said.

STRUGGLE: Peter Watts, a dad of three, spent the year working for his brother-in-law's company after he was unfairly sacked.
STRUGGLE: Peter Watts, a dad of three, spent the year working for his brother-in-law's company after he was unfairly sacked. Peter Watts

The company launched an investigation where Mr X alleged Mr Watts was "hostile, intimidating and threatening" in the incidents.

Mr Sauer, later under cross examination at the Fair Work commission, conceded that Mr X was a "liar" and he'd "lied" to him.

But Mr Sauer was given the go ahead by the mine's general manager, John Snape, to sack Mr Watts, but opted to give them one final chance to work out their differences.

GOOD LIFE: Peter is back at Oaky Creek Coal mine.
GOOD LIFE: Peter is back at Oaky Creek Coal mine. Peter Watts

Just after, despite thanking Mr Watts for his honesty during the investigation, Mr Sauer handed him a termination letter.

The Commission said Mr Sauer's sacking of Mr Watts was "harsh, unjust, and unreasonable".

"Significant conclusions drawn by Mr Sauer about Mr Watts' conduct were not soundly based," the Commissioner said.

Oaky Creek Mine management did not respond to a request for comment.



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