Visy attempting a third dismissal at Dandenong

6 February 2013
Cardboard king Visy is facing further Federal Court proceedings over its sudden decision to stand down several employees, by citing concerns about their continued capacity to perform their jobs.

Without prior warning, on 14 November 2012 three such employees were sent home and told they were suspended, pending the outcome of medical examinations.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union instructed Maurice Blackburn to take urgent action over the threatened sacking of Visy Dandenong employee Agron Rexhepi. On the eve of a Federal Court hearing on 22 January 2013, Visy backed down and agreed to reinstate Mr Rexhepi.

A similar backdown by Visy occurred after a letter of demand threatening an injunction was sent to the company regarding the suspension of employee Nadi Lumanovski. He went back to work on Monday this week.

Josh Bornstein, employment law principal at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers says that the issue of management capacity is critical to Australia's productivity performance, yet it receives scant attention.

"We need to look seriously at the standards and performance of management in this country - education, training and management capability are all overdue for some serious attention by both government and the private sector," Mr Bornstein said.

"Visy's treatment of three long-serving, productive employees would make an interesting case study in the context of the current productivity debate.

"Visy has tried to sack three employees because they have had injuries in the distant past, notwithstanding that each employee was able to be rehabilitated back into productive work after their injury.

"We believe Visy's treatment of each of the employees offends the anti-discrimination provisions of the Fair Work Act."

The latest case, involving 62-year-old Visy employee Billy Jonuzovski, has been listed for an urgent hearing in the Federal Court for 2.15pm on Friday this week.

After nearly 20-years with an unblemished work record, Billy Jonuzovski was stood down in November last year, with Visy raising concerns over workplace injuries he sustained in the early 2000's.

After successfully returning to full-time work as a Strapper Operator since 2005, the company recently ordered him to attend a medical examination out of the blue and suspended him pending the examination results.

"Despite the company's doctors expressly stating that Billy can continue to undertake his long-time role as Strapper Operator effectively, Visy refuses to let Billy back to work. It makes no sense whatsoever and reeks of bad faith," Mr Bornstein said.

Lorraine Cassin, National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Print Division of which Mr Jonuzovski is a member, says employees should be treated with more respect by Visy.

"Billy has been treated terribly by an employer he's given nearly two decades of his life to. Given he left school when he was 11, worked as a farmhand and is now 62, his prospects of working outside of this job he loves are very limited," Ms Cassin said.

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