Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Compo for worker who lied

Apprentice was nearly electrocuted by immigrant who faked work references

Photo / File
Photo / File

A South African who faked work references and lied about his qualifications and experience has won $10,000 compensation for unjustified dismissal.

But Friedriech Gostmann's former boss Gordon Faber says Mr Gostmann's competence as a refrigeration engineer was so poor he almost electrocuted an apprentice.

Mr Gostmann was dismissed without notice from Independent Refrigeration and Electrical in Whakatane in August last year after making a series of costly and serious errors.

In one of the incidents an apprentice asked Mr Gostmann if cables had been isolated when they had not. The cables short-circuited when the apprentice went to move them and he narrowly avoided electrocution.

When Mr Gostmann was interviewed for the senior position early last year, he told Mr Faber he was a refrigeration engineer with 15 years' experience in South Africa. But when he could not perform basic duties alarm bells rang.

"He always seemed to be jittery and I was always scared to work around him," Mr Faber told the Herald.

He asked Mr Gostmann to resign or undergo a notice of dismissal process but said the 55-year-old did not come back to work.

When Mr Faber made inquiries with Mr Gostmann's former employers in South Africa he was told Mr Gostmann was merely a handyman.

His only qualification in the industry was the equivalent of a two-week course completed for immigration papers and that a reference from his former employer was actually signed by an unwitting office person.

"He was actually a big bulls******."

Mr Gostmann said he had never lost a job and he was shocked by the situation and wanted to move on.

When asked if he misrepresented himself in the pre-employment stage or in fact had 15 years' experience, he said: "It's difficult for me to explain these things because I'm working in a different country and I see things differently. Lining up fridges, which is what I did in South Africa, is also a technician's responsibilities."

When Mr Gostmann lost his job his work visa became invalid, which also meant his wife could no longer work in New Zealand.

However, he told the Herald he now has an open visa and is looking for a new job.

The Employment Relations Authority accepted Mr Faber's hearsay evidence that Mr Gostmann was actually a handyman and would not reinstate Mr Gostmann because he was not employed as someone who needed extensive training, coaching or supervision.

ERA member Rachel Larmer also accepted evidence that Mr Gostmann's named referee was someone who worked at a supermarket, rather than at a coolroom and display refrigeration manufacturing company in South Africa, as stated on Mr Gostmann's curriculum vitae.

However, she criticised Independent Refrigeration for not attempting to improve Mr Gostmann's poor workmanship through a performance management or monitoring process.

She also said the company should have carried out more thorough reference checks but acknowledged Mr Gostmann was 50 per cent to blame for his dismissal because his work was not up to standard.

She told Independent Refrigeration to pay $10,304 to Mr Gostmann for distress compensation.

- NZ Herald

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