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‘Chemical brothers’: alleged workplace drug fiends compensated after procedural flaws in unfair dismissal

 

Two WA mine workers sacked after allegedly bullying a fellow worker into buying crystal meth for them have been compensated for unfair dismissal.

 

Two workers, along with a supervisor known as Employee X, known on site as the “chemical brothers”, were all sacked for serious misconduct on 31 March after it was alleged that they forced an on-site contractor to buy them drugs.

  

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In written evidence presented to the Fair Work Commission, the contractor said the men demanded he buy them the drugs on at least 12 occasions. He alleged the three men made him drive from the mine site to Port Hedland and withdraw money from Employee X’s company credit card in order to buy methamphetamines.

 

“I was intimidated and treated like a dog while (I) was at work. I was often told I would be f. ked off and not have a job if I did not do as they said,’’ the statement said. “(One of the “chemical brothers”) would […] drive around my truck and complete the relevant paperwork so that it appeared I was still working.”

 

He also said the men threated to harm his family, including his wife, if he did not carry out their requests.

 

The commission heard that in March, unidentified employees approached a new manager and made a complaint about the conduct of the men – who had been nicknamed “the chemical bothers” on site.

 

The manager said he was informed of the threats made to the contractor and told the three men would disappear from site for a number of hours in the middle of their shifts.

 

The General Manager then confronted Employee X about the allegations, to which he allegedly admitted to the inappropriate use of the credit card and that he had supplied the pin number to the card to other company employees (some five in all) to enable them to withdraw cash.

 

However, the other two “chemical brothers” denied any knowledge or involvement in the misconduct. They both stated they knew nothing of “ice” except for what they learned about it through the news or the television.

 

The men said they knew of their reputations as “the chemical brothers” but claimed they were targets of rumours and misinformation amongst workers.

 

The commission’s senior deputy president said the evidence given by the “chemical brothers” “had some of the hallmarks of fabrication’’. However, he could not accept the contractor’s claim as he had not given direct evidence or been tested under cross examination.

 

“Further, no supporting documentation was provided, such as evidence of the threatening text messages he purportedly received.”

 

It was found the two workers were denied procedural fairness in the manner in which the dismissal was effected.

 

The judge said the two men were not given notice of the reason for their dismissal, were sacked without explanation and were not given the opportunity to have a support person present at the dismissal discussions.

 

One was awarded five weeks’ pay in lieu of reinstatement and the other was awarded eight weeks’ pay. The employer is considering appealing the decision.

 

iHR Australia believes that independent expert workplace investigations are essential for organisations that are dealing with allegations of inappropriate workplace behaviour. iHR Australia provides a range of investigation services, from dealing with informal complaints to significant and complex formal investigations. We also provide representation in industrial relations matters, including bullying, harassment and unfair dismissals.

 

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