Ombudsman appeals Tristar ruling

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Ombudsman appeals Tristar ruling

The Workplace Ombudsman has launched an appeal against the Federal Court’s dismissal of the high-profile Tristar ‘meaningful work’ case.

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The Workplace Ombudsman has launched an appeal against the Federal Court’s dismissal of the high-profile Tristar ‘meaningful work’ case. 

The Ombudsman’s case centred on the Sydney-based car components firm Tristar, which had refused to retrench 35 idle workers after a downturn in business, claiming it had 'constructively' made them redundant by giving them no work to do. 

It made headlines in 2007, when the Ombudsman also argued that the lack of meaningful work for employees was having a devastating psychological effect on the workers and, by doing so, it was neglecting the health of its staff. 

Last month, Justice Roger Gyles ruled that failing to give employees ‘meaningful work’ may have caused them psychological distress but it was not caused by any act of their employer who was ‘constrained by commercial considerations’. 

Workplace Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson announced the appeal today following careful consideration of Justice Gyle’s decision and the ‘important public interest issues raised’ in the matter. 

Not Tristar's fault

In the Federal Court ruling, Gyles said there was no doubt that the retained workers were ‘seriously underemployed’, with a number having no work to do or no work of the kind for which they were qualified for. 

Further, he accepted that most, if not all, of the workers found the situation ‘disturbing and stressful’, with some suffering some ‘lasting psychological trauma’. 

But he ruled the situation was not Tristar’s fault. 

‘… it cannot be overlooked that Tristar was a union shop, and there was an industrial campaign on foot between the unions and Tristar with political implications,’ he said. 

‘The dispute as to whether the employees could be directed to undertake remanufacturing work was one aspect of that campaign. That took many months to resolve. 

‘The retained employees did not work during that period by choice. In one sense, they were foot soldiers who were the victims of the wider campaign being conducted by the generals.’ 

The company, part of the Adelaide-based Arrowcrest Group, subsequently paid about 30 employees entitlements of more than $4.3m. 

Related 

Tristar 'meaningful work' case dismissed

 


 

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