Public servant fired for bringing explosives to work loses rehire bid

By SmartCompany

Friday November 30, 2018

A longstanding public servant fired after allegedly bringing explosives and a pair of duelling pistols to work has lost a bid to be reinstated in an extraordinary unfair dismissal case.

The employee, who worked as a mechanic for Transport Canberra for 17 years, was alleged to have shown a co-worker an explosive booster charge, telling them “it would blow a car in two” in January 2017.

It was alleged the mechanic rolled the explosive device across the floor in the direction of a colleague.

The worker claimed the explosives were “inert”, telling a Fair Work Commission hearing he thought they would help him make friends after experiencing workplace bullying.

It was also alleged he previously brought black powder duelling pistols, a .22 calibre rifle and a shotgun into work.

Transport Canberra terminated his employment with full pay from June 30, 2017, following an investigation into the matter, determining the worker put the health and safety of himself and colleagues at risk.

The matter was also referred to the Australian Federal Police.

Denying he brought firearms to work, the mechanic filed for unfair dismissal, saying his prospects of finding alternative work in Canberra with his skill set were limited.

The mechanic denied his conduct posed a “genuine and serious risk” to health and safety and it was not uncommon for people to bring firearms, knives and alcohol in to show co-workers.

The worker also argued he had an unblemished record of 17 years working at Transport Canberra and that dismissal was too harsh a consequence.

In his judgement, deputy president John Kovacic recognised the worker’s longstanding employment but said his actions nonetheless justified dismissal.

“Whether the booster charges were inert and the duelling pistols were inoperable does not, in my view, diminish the gravity of … conduct in bringing those items into the workplace,” Kovacic said.

“The fact of the matter is he had no legitimate reason to do so, and by doing so he created a risk to safety given the possibility that the items were live or operable.”

Speaking to SmartCompany about the case, Workplace Law managing director Athena Koelmeyer said the worker’s actions showed a distinct lack of awareness.

“It’s pretty silly. We live in a day and age now where bombs and guns and other things are not only unacceptable but make people feel legitimately scared,” she says.

“It has to be something really bad for a public servant to get to the point of losing their job.”

Matthew Elmas is the news editor at SmartCompany.

This article was first published by our sister publication SmartCompany.

Top image: AP/Matt Dunham

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