Union boss sacked for sickie after annual leave refused

A CENTRAL Queensland miner and union boss who was sacked for taking two sick days after his annual leave had his bid for damages rejected.

Stephen Byrne was sacked from his job at Anglo Coal's Dawson Mine near Moura last year after the company ruled his behaviour was unacceptable, dishonest and in breach of contract.

He was reinstated on a temporary basis after the CMFEU took Anglo Coal to court pending a full hearing.

The Federal Court heard, during several hearings last July, August and September Mr Byrne had applied for annual leave only for the site boss to reject it.

Mr Byrne was told it was due to staffing levels at the mine and the fact he had not submitted the request 28 days prior as required.

Mr Byrne told the site boss on April 22 he had to sign off on the annual leave request and if he did not he was going to be sick anyway.

He subsequently called in sick on April 24 and 25, the same days he had applied for annual leave which was declined.

Mr Byrne attended a meeting the following week where he provided a medical certificate for the two days he took off.

The doctor who issued the certificate said Mr Byrne's absenteeism from work was due to asthma exacerbation and a lower respiratory tract infection.

But the company did not believe he was genuinely sick and Mr Byrne was issued with a show cause letter on May 1 and dismissed on May 12.

Mr Byrne claimed his dismissal was also due to the fact he was involved with the union and had represented workers when negotiating a new enterprise agreement.

But the court rejected the claim.

Justice Berna Collier, in handing down her decision this week, found in hindsight, it was likely Mr Byrne was developing a medical condition when he took the sick days

But she said company was also justified in terminating his employment based on the information and interactions they had with him at the time.

"I consider it relevant to take into consideration my view that Mr Byrne primarily has himself to blame for creation of circumstances where the respondent (Anglo Coal) believes that he was dishonest," she said.

"His initial claiming of annual leave, his response when it was refused, and his subsequent disingenuous claims that taking annual leave rather than sick leave would benefit the respondent, all built a picture of his deceit."


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