Tribunal refuses review of Seacourt unfair dismissal

THE Office of Tribunals has refused a review of a tribunal heard earlier this year which decided that an administrator at Seacourt Community Council had been unfairly dismissed.

Joanne Christie took a case against her former employer for unfair dismissal and for unauthorised deduction of wages and holiday pay. As well as unanimously deciding that she had been unfairly dismissed, the tribunal ordered the respondent – Seacourt Community Council – to pay a total of £23,782.65 compensation to Ms Christie.

During evidence on May 23 and 24, Ms Christie claimed her boss – Seacourt Community Council chairman Bertie Shaw – had “violent mood swings” and who could subject people to “violent outbursts of abuse, bad language and physical intimidation”.

Following the tribunal, an application for a review of the case was lodged on behalf of the respondent on the grounds that a decision was made in the absence of a party, namely Bertie Shaw, the key witness for the respondent.

During hearings in September, October and December to determine whether a review should be granted, evidence was heard from various parties, including Larne Council’s chief executive Geraldine McGahey and PSNI Inspector Noel Rogan.

The panel heard that the matter had originally been postponed at the request of Bertie Shaw, who said he had to attend “a very important directors’ meeting”. The application was granted and the hearing listed for May 23 and 24.

It was heard that Mr Shaw made “a split-second decision” on May 23 to deal with a situation regarding the official opening of The Cliff rather than attend the tribunal.

It is recorded that Bertie Shaw said he had quite a number of people to speak to “in order to avert what he portrayed as a crisis” regarding The Cliff opening. However, the tribunal “received no specific evidence nor any detail as to precisely what activities, meetings, discussions or other business” Bertie Shaw attended to after 11am on May 23 and throughout the rest of that day or the next day while the tribunal was being heard.

The meeting of directors of The Cliff took place on May 25 and the tribunal heard that it appeared that some of the representatives attending the meeting, specificially the political representatives, were concerned at what they perceived to be the lack of a balanced approach being taken in the selection of Tyrone GAA boss Mickey Harte to conduct the opening ceremony.

The tribunal also recorded that while Bertie Shaw suggested that local feelings were running so strongly on May 23 that there “could well have been civil unrest and disruption and indeed, the possibility of violence”, both Inspector Rogan and Mrs McGahey did not in any support that suggestion.

In refusing the review, the tribunal concluded that the most probably explanation was that Bertie Shaw viewed the proceedings “with a measure of scepticism and disregard. He decided the matter did not merit his personal attendance on either of the two days of listing.”

As a result, the review application was refused and the tribunal’s decision was affirmed in its entirety.