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Two Visy workers sacked after being wrongly accused of organising an overtime ban in their factory have successfully fought to get their jobs back.

The two workers, who were also the union delegates at the factory, were represented by Slater and Gordon’s Industrial and Employment team, led by lawyer Geoff Borenstein.

The Fair Work Commission this week overturned Visy’s decision to fire the workers, deeming they were unfairly dismissed.

In addition to having their employment reinstated, the pair will also be financially compensated.

The two workers were dismissed following a “flawed” investigation by Visy which lacked diligence and care, leading to Visy wrongly concluding that the two workers had organised their work colleagues to not work overtime.

What was deemed to have occurred was that the operations manager had conducted a number of heated and poorly managed meetings for the purpose of introducing a new policy at the factory, which left the factory’s employees agitated and disgruntled.

As a result of this, employees made their own individual decisions not to work overtime. For example, when asked by Visy’s barrister why he gave up money by not working overtime, one of the witnesses who was an employee at the factory responded:

Money's not everything. When you've … worked 10, 15, 20 hours straight, everybody was upset. Because they put the effort in for the company and then they get spoken to like that and called names like that.

Industrial and Employment Practice Group Leader Geoff Borenstein said the firm had a long history of supporting and assisting unionists, and recognised the important and selfless role delegates play in the workplace.

He said Slater and Gordon was proud to have been able to represent the two AMWU delegates and achieve a result where they get to return to the workplace where they belong.

“Union delegates play a very important part in the workplace – and it is a very satisfying result to have protected them from a harsh, unjust and unreasonable termination,” Mr Borenstein said.

“Terminating a person’s employment is clearly a serious matter and a drastic action. This decision confirms that employers must have proper evidence, and that they cannot act on unsubstantiated assumptions or inferences.

“As held by the Fair Work Commission, we successfully proved that there was no proper evidence that could be relied upon to establish the two delegates had done anything wrong, and that the assumptions and inferences that were drawn by Visy could not properly found the basis for their termination.

“We are proud to have been able to assist these Visy employees return to work; we hope this sends a message to workplaces everywhere that unfairly targeting employees and union delegates and terminating employees without proper evidence, will not be tolerated.

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