A Bangalow-based snack-food manufacturer is considering whether to appeal a decision by the Fair Work Commission ordering it pay $10,000 compensation to a South Sudanese refugee over an unfair dismissal case against it.
The factory worker for Byron Bay Superfoods won his case last month after the commission found the company unfairly and harshly dismissed him, deciding it was not, as the company claimed, a genuine redundancy.
The commission’s vice president Adam Hatcher ordered the company to pay the worker, Nathaniel Garang, $10,694 in four instalments by the end of September this year.
Chief executive of the company, Paul Owies, told Echonetdaily this morning that his company lawyers were considering whether to appeal the decision and would not make any further comment.
Mr Garang, who had started at the company in 2014, had claimed he was made redundant in August last year after putting forward a case to be paid unpaid overtime and correct entitlements under the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award.
He told the commission that after making this request, he was offered a $1,000 annual increase in wages, which he refused.
He alleged the company then informed him his position was being made redundant and asked him to leave the business in August 2016.
Mr Garang told the commission he had been required to work unpaid overtime and asked to take annual-leave days when the business, which makes a range of snack foods including Wallaby Bites, was hit by activity downturns.
Mr Hatcher in his decision said that even if it was a genuine redundancy, proper consultation processes had not been followed.
The worker arrived in Australia from South Sudan as a refugee in 2005 and married in 2008. He has three children and described himself to national media as ‘a proud Aussie’ after becoming an Australian citizen in 2009.
Mr Hatcher said Byron Bay Superfoods’ conduct following the dismissal of Mr Garang ‘can only be characterised as vindictive’.
A Fairfax Media report on the case said the company tried to prevent Mr Garang getting Centrelink benefits after his job was terminated and questioned his GP’s ‘ethics and medical due diligence’ in a complaint to the Medical Board of NSW.
The GP, according to the report, was accused of writing a medical certificate ‘based on a medically unfounded diagnosis’.
Mr Garang told Fairfax Media he was ‘really hurt by the terrible treatment’.
Fairfax Media says that after his dismissal, Mr Garang had trouble getting the Newstart allowance because the company refused to provide him with a separation certificate to confirm his employment termination.
The report says Mr Garang lost his father and some of his siblings in a civil war in South Sudan when he was four years old.
He spent many years in a refugee camp in Kenya before arriving in Australia on a humanitarian visa.