Shawn shown the door

ACT candidate Shawn Tan has been sacked by his employer, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union. (Previous posts here, here, here, here, and here.)

The EPMU says Tan had not sought permission to stand as required by the collective employment agreement under which he was employed, and that he used a work computer to send Act emails during work time.

Tan says he may take legal action. He can take a personal grievance on various grounds including discrimination on the basis of political opinion, or take his case to the Human rights Commission, but not both. My pick is that he will take a PG, in which case it is unlikely to be heard before the election, and even less likely to be determined by then.

Tan says:

“I would be prepared to go back if the conditions were right, for example if the EPMU could guarantee my safety, that I wouldn’t go back and face barrage or ridicule or the disparity of treatment. They couldn’t guarantee that and said I was asking too much. I was pretty disgusted by that actually.”

The EPMU, on the other hand, says that:

“The decision is about his employment obligations, it’s not about his political affiliations … he has employment obligations to the union and he has chosen not to abide by those. Added to that he has chosen to attack the union publicly.”

I have to say that Tan’s argument strikes me as quite novel and opens up a whole new dimension to the dispute. Is he arguing that he was constructively dismissed because his employer couldn’t guarantee his safety? There are plenty of cases where constructive dismissal cases have been won on such grounds. My favourite concerned a meter reader being repeatedly sent back into an area where a pack of wild dogs roamed free biting meter readers. providing a safe workplace is a duty implied in the personal employment contract by common law.

But the EPMU is only too well aware of this. If they sacked Tan for his contractual breach before he resigned, then I’m not sure that his arguments would get him very far in court. I’d be inclined to think that would mostly be about Tan’s breach of the employment agreement and whether he was discriminated against and whether his breach was sufficient cause for dismissal. (I could be wrong here, of course.)

The court of public opinion might be another matter.

Update : The Standard posts on the EPMU’s story, outlined in a public statement, timeline, documentation (pdf 2.6MB) and letter of dismissal. (Hat-tip: Julie.)

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One Response to “Shawn shown the door”

  1. Julie Says:

    Might want to check out The Standard’s post on this, if you haven’t already. There is much much more to it than the Herald have portrayed, and SP has all the goss (including the supporting documentation).

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