By James Atkinson

Diageo Australia has convincingly won an unfair dismissal case brought by a worker who was sacked due to performance issues.

Between 2002 and 2010 the worker was employed on the bottle line at Diageo's Huntingwood, New South Wales manufacturing plant.

With the introduction of the RTD tax in 2010, he was moved across to the can line, because Diageo could no longer guarantee him an afternoon shift on the bottle line.

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) in February this year heard that once on the can line the worker repeatedly failed to carry out his share of preventative maintenance tasks and argued excessively with his co-workers. 

He also failed to complete Diageo Learning Units (DLUs) – competency-based assessments for each of the various machines – and was unable to operate a forklift because his forklift licence expired at the beginning of the year and was not renewed.

In May 2012 the worker was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan. He was eventually sacked in August after his performance did not improve and he had received two written warnings.

In the FWC hearing, the worker claimed Diageo was at fault for providing him with inadequate training and for failing to address problems he had raised with the company's training processes.

But handing down his ruling last month, FWC Senior Deputy President Jonathan Hamberger said he did not consider the worker to be a credible witness.

"During cross-examination he was often evasive and self-serving in his responses. I found some of his evidence, such as that relating to his allegation that members of the afternoon shift went to the pub to watch the State of Origin, to be completely unbelievable," Deputy President Hamberger said.

He said that in contrast, Diageo Australia's witnesses generally gave "clear, responsive and consistent evidence, often backed up by contemporaneous written notes". 

Deputy President Hamberger rejected the worker's submissions that his failure to become competent was due to a failure by Diageo to provide adequate training. 

"Rather, I find based on the evidence that it was due to [his] own lack of cooperation and general unwillingness to learn," he said.

Deputy President Hamberger said the worker's sacking was not unfair and the proceedings must be dismissed.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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