Employment Law
Employment Law

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A union will be looking into safety records at a milk factory after a health and safety adviser claimed she was unfairly blamed for the company’s “poor” track record.

The employee unsuccessfully brought personal grievance and constructive dismissal claims against South Canterbury-based Oceania Dairy Ltd, at a hearing in Timaru.

Oceania Dairy produces milk powder for export to China for infant formula. Its factory is at Glenavy.

New Zealand Dairy Workers Union national secretary Chris Flatt said the union would be following up with Oceania about the company’s health and safety records, but declined to comment further on the case.

Moira Briscoe was employed as a health and safety adviser in March 2014. She experienced a breakdown in her relationship with her employer two years later when a new head of human resources was appointed.

Briscoe alleged she was bullied and treated with a lack of respect between February 2016, when the new manager was appointed, and her resignation in July 2016.

She complained of being unnecessarily moved and micro-managed, and said her performance appraisal was unfairly moderated, and Oceania failed to provide her with adequate information of key performance indicators.

During that time period she also claimed general manager Roger Usmar said he wanted to “get rid” of her during a senior management meeting, something Usmar denied.

He attended a meeting with Briscoe and the human resources manager in May to try to address some of Briscoe’s concerns.

Briscoe resigned on July 15, and alleged the company had failed to investigate her bullying claims.

Authority member James Crichton said in his judgement, released on August 3, he was not convinced Briscoe was treated disrespectfully.

Her treatment around performance appraisals was the same as the rest of the staff, and the performance indicators she complained about were never implemented.

When it came to allegations of micro-managing, the new human resources manager simply seemed to have a different style to her predecessor, Crichton said.

“[She] was seeking a more detailed and focused relationship in respect to health and safety, particularly in the context of Oceania’s concern about health and safety failings within the business.​”

Usmar did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday about the company’s health and safety situation.

Crichton said the relationship between Briscoe and her new manager lasted only a few weeks, making it difficult to say the conduct was “repeated” and workplace bullying.

“None of that seems to me inappropriate from a management perspective and again I say that even if it could be alleged that Ms Briscoe had suffered a disadvantage because she was now being managed whereas previously she was given a relatively free hand.”

Briscoe said the company failed to look into her bullying allegations after she sent an email to the human resources manager outlining her concerns.

However Crichton noted Briscoe never raised the matter again, and appeared to have had a “productive discussion” with the manager after the email was sent.

There was no evidence of hurt or distress other than Briscoe going on sick leave immediately before her resignation.

“There is simply no evidence before the authority of [the health and safety manager] doing anything in her relationship with Ms Briscoe other than trying to get the best possible outcomes for the wider Oceania staff.”

Published on Monday, August 21st, 2017, under Blog

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