A New Zealand Goodman Fielder ex-plant manager will receive $87,300 after he claims he was forced to resign when his role became unclear after the earthquakes.
Keith Wills, who worked for Goodman Fielder at its Christchurch site, successfully challenged an Employment Relations Authority (ERA) decision that ruled he was not constructively dismissed by the company in 2011, stuff.co.nz reports.
The company's Christchurch site in Essex St made operational changes after sustaining major damage in the February 2011 earthquake. It was believed it may take two years to rebuild the baking manufacturing plant.
The company decided it was unsustainable to retain baking staff by July and positions were disestablished, but kept Wills on as an employee, claiming it did not want to lose his skill, despite Wills believing his job would be disestablished.
He took on temporary roles and in November 2011, he asked to be considered for redundancy because he felt his core job of managing the food plant was redundant and the future of the Essex St site was uncertain.
“I have enquired several times about my position and my future within Goodman Fielder, however no one has been able to give me any answers,” Wills wrote in his resignation letter, dated December 21, 2011.
“This decision has not been an easy one to make after 33.5 years working for Goodman Fielder, however the ongoing uncertainty and stress has unfortunately left me with no choice but to resign.”
Wills unsuccessfully argued to the ERA he had been constructively dismissed. He believed his position should have been disestablished and he should have been offered a redundancy pay out, but took his case to the Employment Court where Judge Bruce Corkill overturned the decision.
Corkill found had Wills not carried on working at the company, it was likely his position would have been disestablished.
Corkill said the “company's interests were put ahead of Mr Wills' rights” by wanting to retain his skills instead of questioning if his position was needed.
Goodman and Fielder said Wills voluntarily resigned and his position was “not superfluous”.
Corkill ordered the company to pay Wills $13,437.15 in loss of wages, $61,907 in redundancy compensation and $12,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings – totalling $87,344.15.
Goodman Fielder decided not to rebuild the bread plant in April 2013 and closed its manufacturing department in June last year. The site continues to operate as a bread depot.