A worker sacked after incidents including swearing at his Affco Hawke's Bay Hide Processors boss in Napier is back to work after an Employment Relations Authority decision ordering reinstatement, reimbursement of lost wages and payment of damages.
Henry Waihape started as a 19-year-old in 1982 and has worked at the plant since apart from a brief period when he "tried something different that didn't work out".
The union delegate lost the job six months ago but has returned to shake hands with others who were involved and will clock in this morning, determined to put the issues behind him.
"It's been a big learning curve for all of us," he said
The decision follows a hearing late last year at which Mr Waihape claimed he was unjustifiably dismissed. Affco told the hearing it had lost trust and confidence in Mr Waihape.
In the decision, authority Mike Loftus said Affco fell "woefully short in trying to justify the dismissal", which stemmed from an incident on the Saturday morning of August 13, 2016. Mr Waihape was suspended later in the month and dismissed on September 1.
Issues had arisen over staff being directed by a production supervisor to process non-perishable goods on a Saturday in conflict with an agreement that only perishable goods would be handled, and Mr Waihape's decision to leave early once the agreed work
and cleaning-up had been completed.
The supervisor stated: "What the f... are you doing? Get back on the Sammer."
Mr Waihape said: "For f...'s sake (name), what are you on about?"
However, the supervisor told the authority that Mr Wiahape said "Who the f... do you think you are?"
It was conceded the swearing was in the heat of the moment.
Issues also arose about the process used by the company in its investigation, with Mr Waihape telling the authority the company "refused to listen" to discussion on the agreement document and would not let him respond to allegations.
On the issue of the language used, Mr Loftus accepted Mr Waihape's evidence that it was the way people "normally expressed themselves in this work place".
"It is well established that an employer will fail to justify a dismissal where communications do not appear to be greatly out of character with others apparently condoned by management in the workplace," Mr Loftus said, quoting from precedent.
In addition to reinstatement and reimbursement of lost wages, Affco was ordered to
pay Mr Waihape $6000 as compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.
Affco were unable to be reached for comment.