Cleaner loses appeal to get back work

A CLEANER who lost his job at Lismore Base Hospital amid allegations he was being victimised as a whistle-blower has lost an appeal to the Industrial Relations Commission to have his job reinstated.

Alex Mervyn Charles was employed as a casual worker at the hospital between March 2010 and July 2013.

He contacted the Independent Commission Against Corruption in 2011, blowing the whistle on what he believed were potentially contaminated hospital boxes being given to local butchers to make home deliveries of raw meat.

Some of the discarded medical boxes, according to Mr Charles, had been used to transport intravenous fluids.

The Northern NSW Local Health District acknowledged the practice had taken place but said there was no indication the boxes had been contaminated.

ICAC did not make any adverse findings, but Mr Charles believed he was subsequently subjected to a campaign of bullying extending over 2012 and 2013.

He stopped working for the hospital after July 29, 2013, citing a psychological injury.

He filed a workers' compensation claim and was initially denied until he went to the Workers' Compensation Commission and was awarded weekly payments.

Mr Charles's name was still listed in the hospital's casual pool throughout 2013 and 2014 through an administrative organisation known as Healthshare, despite the fact he had not worked since July 2013.

"Healthshare from time to time applied the administrative practice of removing names of persons from that list if the person concerned had not worked a shift in the previous six months..." the IRC judgment states.

His name was removed from the casual employee list on June 2014 after about 11 months away from work.

"The appellant was not made aware of this at the time, noting he was not, in any event, available for work with the respondent at that time," the judgment said.

He discovered he was no longer employed in early 2015.

In his case before the IRC, Mr Charles argued he was sacked because of his whistle-blowing and had been dismissed while an injured worker, in breach of the Workers Compensation Act.

The Northern NSW Local Health District contended the removal of Mr Charles's name from the employee list was not its doing, and it could not be held accountable for Healthshare's decision.

The IRC rejected that notion but found the name's removal did not equate to a dismissal.

"The existence of the list, and the appearance of an individual person's name on the list did not create or guarantee any offer of work by the respondent, nor impose any obligation to work on the persons whose names were on the list," the judgment stated.

"A person on the list might or might not be offered casual work.

"They might or might not accept that work if it were offered."

The appeal was dismissed. -ARM NEWSDESK

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