A company who fired an employee over a series of “breaches” was found guilty of unfair dismissal after it transpired that it failed to give the employee the opportunity to counteract such claims and defend himself.

The judgment was handed down by the industrial tribunal in the case which had been instituted by Emanuel Cordina, against his employer, Zenith Malta Division. In view of the fact that he is a member of UHM Voice of the Workers, he was assisted by the union’s lawyer Dr Andrew Grima and Ramon Francalanza who at the time was the UHM manager in charge of this section.

On May 24, 2018, the employee had received a letter in which he was informed that he had been dismissed in the wake of a “breach” in his terms of employment whereby two days before he had allegedly left his place of work without authorisation. During proceedings the company said that prior to this incident, the employee had been “warned” several times over his conduct. These included not being found at home by the company doctor on a day when he had reported sick, failing to turn up to work and threatening a colleague. Consequently, the decision to fire the employee was taken as a result of various warnings, the company told the tribunal.

On his part the aggrieved worker contested these claims. He told the tribunal that when he had reported sick, he was not home for the company doctor’s visit as he was visiting his own family doctor. Moreover, he justified his absences from work as the result of misunderstandings with colleagues over a swapped shift and on the time when taking the break.

In its decision the tribunal presided by Harold Walls pointed out that in cases whereby the employer deems there are enough grounds to take disciplinary action, the worker in question must be formally notified in writing. The employer must outline the nature of the alleged breaches or misconduct in order for the worker to have the opportunity to defend himself. Consequently, the employer is bound to issue a formal “charge” and state the time and date when the case would be heard. Moreover, the employee has the right to summon witnesses and be assisted by a trusted person.

However, in this particular case it transpired that the company granted no such opportunity to the employee and hence he could not mount his own defence.

Consequently, after going through the evidence brought by the two parties, the tribunal decided that the termination of Cordina’s employment was unfair and in breach of the law. Furthermore the tribunal awarded the employee €4,200 in damages within a fortnight of this judgment.