New Zealand's largest union has been forced to pay $5000 for unfairly firing a sick Wellington worker.
In a decision released this morning, the Employment Relations Authority found the Public Service Association unjustifiably dismissed Mary-Anne Kindell on September 23, 2011.
The association is New Zealand's biggest union, representing 58,000 public sector workers.
The authority found the association had not given Ms Kindell an opportunity to respond to the dismissal or adequately determined whether she could return to work.
Ms Kindell had worked at the association's Wellington office since 2005, but was dismissed after several extended periods of sick leave on pay, which included being hospitalised eight times.
Before dismissing her, the association made several attempts to assess whether Ms Kindell could return to work, most of which never took place following disagreements.
But the authority said the association should have tried harder before dismissing Ms Kindell without assessing whether she could return to work.
''A fair and reasonable employer could have investigated better by persevering to engage Ms Kindell and assemble all relevant information from the appropriate medical sources before making a final decision.''
For New Zealand's biggest trade union to have slipped up like this is an embarrassment. If anyone could expect fair treatment from their employers, you would think it would be the staff of trade unions.
The PSA will be only too aware of what a minefield employment law could be. That knowledge however hasn't stopped them of making a meal of due process in Ms Kindell's case, and PSA members will have to foot the bill for their union's failure to be a "fair and reasonable employer".
Both the PSA and Unite Union have treated their staff shabbily. The respective unions would be screaming from the rooftops if a scumbag employer sacked one of their members without a proper assessment of the prospects of a return to work, or if an employer held on to monies payable to the taxman for a period of eighteen months. But when push comes to shove, they have shown themselves to be no better than those whom they vilify. In fact one could argue that a union mistreating its staff is even worse than the run-of-the-mill unscrupulous employer they are always warning us about.