Bus company fined over employee complaints

The bus company once responsible for a third of Melbourne’s services has been fined for discrimination against a worker.

Transdev escaped conviction for its discrimination of driver Jens Buche, who was given a first and final warning after raising safety concerns with WorkSafe.

In August 2018 he raised a number of occupational health and safety issues, including about a door safety indication panel.

He also raised issues about four buses he was due to drive in the same month.

A Victorian County Court jury heard evidence that Mr Buche was given the opportunity to attend a meeting with management about the issues, where the warning was given.

Jurors heard Mr Buche’s approach to safety issues had been “ill considered”, Judge Sandra Davis said handing down a $30,000 fine on Thursday.

There was evidence at trial that Mr Buche had an established pattern of pursuing minor matters to a degree that several WorkSafe safety inspectors believed was unnecessary, and more appropriately dealt with internally at Transdev, Judge Davis said.

The door indicator panel fault had already been raised with Transdev and operational control centre staff had advised the bus could remain in service and be swapped at the earliest convenience.

But Mr Buche refused to drive the vehicle after noticing the fault.

The jury found Transdev guilty of one charge of discrimination against an employee, but acquitted the bus company over another charge.

Judge Davis said the jury was not persuaded that Transdev issued the warning to Mr Buche for a reason other than him raising issues or concerns about health and safety.

Transdev provided a third of Melbourne’s buses between 2013 and earlier this year. The company no longer runs that service but continues to exist with a view to getting future government contracts, including to operate the city’s tram network.

Lawyers for the company feared a conviction would impact its ability to secure future contracts.

Judge Davis said the company had internal procedures for dealing with safety issues, including referrals to an occupational health and safety committee and, if necessary, to WorkSafe.

It spent almost $40 million on training, maintenance and repairs in 2018 and 2019, she said.

The court heard Mr Buche did not lose his job or any income as a result of the discrimination, and further misconduct would have been needed for his employment to be terminated.

Mr Buche said he loved driving buses but mistrusted management. He returned to a previous career in the aviation industry after the incident.

Source Shepp News

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