Sacked employee blows $13,000 compensation offer

By Tui Bromley of the Greymouth Star

The sacked Oceana Gold employee's attempt to claim costs from the ERA backfired, costing him more than the company was ordered to pay him. Photo / File
The sacked Oceana Gold employee's attempt to claim costs from the ERA backfired, costing him more than the company was ordered to pay him. Photo / File

An attempt by a sacked Oceana Gold employee to claim costs for an Employment Relations Authority hearing has backfired, costing him more than the company was ordered to pay him.

Terry Watson, a qualified electrician in South Africa, was responsible for the electricians at the Reefton goldmine despite not obtaining a New Zealand electrical trade certificate.

After complaints from other staff, and hearing that Mr Watson had "bullied" one electrician and tried to get him to withdraw a complaint, management terminated his employment.

Mr Watson had claimed unjustified dismissal, and at a hearing earlier this month the authority agreed with him, but then ruled that his behaviour had "contributed significantly" to his dismissal, reducing the amount of compensation from about $28,000 to $7226.

In a later action, Mr Watson asked the authority to order the company to pay his costs of $7000 and $378 disbursements.

In response, Oceana Gold sought from Mr Watson costs of $7000 and disbursements of $5915, as some of its witnesses had to travel from overseas for the hearing.

The company argued that it had initially offered a settlement with him, which would have recorded the termination as a resignation not dismissal, paid for his New Zealand certification, plus $13,000 compensation and $5000 towards his costs.

However, Mr Watson rejected that, forcing Oceana Gold to spend $27,152 defending itself at the hearing.

The company responded by asking that its former employee pay back $7000. The authority agreed that was a fair figure, ordering him to pay $7000 in Oceana's costs and $1601 disbursements.

- The Greymouth Star

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