Cane harvester Shea Munro says he might challenge the Fair Work Commission's decision to reject his unfair dismissal case against Wilmar.
Cane harvester Shea Munro says he might challenge the Fair Work Commission's decision to reject his unfair dismissal case against Wilmar. Campbell Gellie

'Double-dipping' worker sacked for not giving up roster

AFTER Wilmar caught Shea Munro working on a harvester while on paid carer's leave, they demanded he provide a detailed roster from his personal business and client list, believing he was "double dipping".

When he refused claiming he was "ambushed" and handing over his business' details was an invasion of privacy, he was sacked from the mill.

On the last day of his carer's leave, to look after his partner who had just given birth to their fourth child, the Armstrong Beach resident was working for himself harvesting cane when Wilmar's regional operations manager Craig Muddle and field officer Tony Tomlinson discovered him in a field.

The father of four was asked why he was working while on paid carer's leave.

Believing that Mr Munro was earning money while on carer's leave, he was asked to provide information about his company.

After he refused he was sacked from his $100,000 a year job at Plane Creek Mill.

The circumstances that led to his sacking were heard at the Fair Work Commission, after Mr Munro took the miller to the commission for unfair dismissal.

 

"It shouldn't be the 'Fair' Work Commission, just the Work Commission," Mr Munro said after his claim was dismissed by Commissioner Hunt last month.

Commissioner Hunt found that he was fired for "not following through lawful and reasonable instructions from Wilmar" to provide those details of his business.

But Mr Munro said he wouldn't have been asked for those details if Wilmar didn't believe he was "double dipping" which the Commissioner said he wasn't doing.

Mr Munro argued in the commission hearing that he used his paid carer's leave to look after his partner and their children in the evening when his partner's mother was not available.

 

Cane harvester Shea Munro says he might challenge the Fair Work Commission's decision to reject his unfair dismissal case against Wilmar.
Cane harvester Shea Munro says he might challenge the Fair Work Commission's decision to reject his unfair dismissal case against Wilmar. Campbell Gellie

Wilmar submitted that Mr Munro was "double-dipping", being paid for both harvesting and carer's leave.

"(All) to the detriment of Wilmar, Wilmar was required to pay overtime to an employee it has asked to cover Mr Munro's shift while he was on paid carer's leave," the company submitted to the Commission.

So two days after Mr Munro was seen harvesting he had a meeting with Mr Muddle.

He wasn't sacked but instead told to provide his detailed harvesting roster from his contracting business to the miller within two days.

But Mr Munro contested the conditions and said it would be an invasion of privacy on his business and his clients.

This brought up concerns for Wilmar about how much harvesting work Mr Munro was doing and what effect it would have on his fatigue levels while operating milling equipment.

And after he didn't comply his job was terminated.

"I accept Wilmar had a duty of care to ensure Mr Munro was not unduly fatigued whether he was going to do his private work after a shift at Wilmar, or perform his Wilmar work after his private work," Commissioner Hunt's decision read.

"Mr Munro was made aware that if he didn't provide the information sought, his employment may be terminated."

On that basis Commissioner Hunt rejected Mr Munro claims that he was fired unfairly.

A Wilmar Sugar spokesperson said the company was satisfied with the decision handed down by the Fair Work Commission.

"We employ more than 2000 Queenslanders across the business and we take our responsibility to our people seriously," the spokesperson said.

But speaking to the Mercury, Mr Munro said the decision "sucked" because Wilmar was already aware of how much harvesting work he was doing.

He said the milling company planned when, where and how much cane to harvest each day his business was working.

"We were completely in the right, we sought legal advice on it," he said.

"Originally, the mill tried to dismiss me because they thought I was fraudulently claiming carer's leave.

"It was proved that it was well within my right under the circumstances to take that carer's leave.

"And so they moved the goal posts, so to speak, and tried to get me on something else."

He said that was by forcing him to provide them with business details that he would never hand over.

"It was devastating financially. I was on $100,000 a year, that's a big loss, especially when you are starting out in business," he said.

"This business was set-up to run at a loss at the beginning and we have basically just suffered a big hit and had to cope with it."

Mr Munro said he was contemplating challenging the decisions but had time restrictions which would be difficult to meet in the middle of the crushing season.



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