INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
(REPRESENTED BY AUGUSTUS CULLEN & SON, SOLICITORS)
- AND -
Chairman: Mr McGrath
Employer Member: Mr Brennan
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Alleged unfair dismissal.
2. The worker was employed as a part-time teacher by the VTOS in Arklow. The VTOS is a branch of Wicklow VEC and provides educational facilities for mature students who may have missed out on normal school years.
On the 20th December, 1996, the worker was notified by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the VEC that his contract would not be renewed for the following term. The worker alleges that the following incident occurred and was responsible for the non-renewal of his contract:-
On the 17th December, 1996, he was supervising an examination for 24 students. A telephone in an adjacent room rang. The worker answered the telephone and was asked if a particular student was available. The worker explained that the student was sitting for an examination and was not available. He replaced the telephone but then lifted it from the receiver so that there would be no further disturbance.
Twenty minutes later there was a disturbance in the hallway outside the examination room. The disturbance was caused by a secretary from another teaching centre who wanted to know why the receiver was off the hook. The worker replied that he was responsible. The secretary then demanded that the student to whom the telephone call related to be taken out of the examination. The worker asked the student to leave the room and an argument between the student and secretary took place in the hallway. At this stage the worker admits that he became angry himself and asked the student and secretary to leave the area, using strong language in the process.
The examination continued and afterwards the worker went to the secretary to apologise for his use of language. The secretary refused his apology and told him that she had written a letter of complaint to the CEO of the VEC. On the 20th December, 1996, the worker was informed that he was dismissed.
3. 1. The worker has been unfairly treated by the VEC. Prior to the incident on the 17th December, 1996 there were no problems with management or students. The worker had no written confirmation of the reason for his dismissal. The students have been told that he is no longer teaching due to an illness, something the worker takes exception to. If he was as bad as the VEC claims he should have been given some official warning but this did not happen. The worker encouraged the students at all times to ask questions and was never aggressive or abusive to them as the VEC claims. He admitted that he may have dealt badly with the telephone call on the 17th December, 1996 but apologised to the secretary afterwards.
4. 1. The worker was aggressive towards students and staff. They were afraid to ask questions in class. A number of students would not have a great deal of personal confidence and were upset by his behaviour. A large percentage of his students left between September and December, 1996. The worker spoke to the students of a number of personal problems he had which was not a professional way to behave.
2. Management spoke to the worker on a couple of occasions regarding his problems. He was told to distance himself from the students as his behaviour with some of the them outside of class was not appropriate. Since the worker left the VEC the number of students has returned to what is was prior to the problems with the worker.
The Court has fully considered all of the issues raised by the parties in their oral and written submissions. The Court finds that the manner in which the VEC terminated the employment of the claimant was unreasonable.
The Court considers, given all the circumstances, that the employee should be compensated by way of a lump-sum equivalent to the earnings which would have accrued up to 1st April, 1997.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
24th March, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.