Unfair Dismissal
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pre DAB

 

Unfair Dismissal    Vogt v Telstra

"Mr. Vogt is an agitator, without a doubt……(he) is entitled to be an agitator…It is an important case for that reason"

(Mark Irving, Barrister)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Queen St. Site

In 1993 Mervyn commenced work with Telstra in a call centre as a contracted telemarketer.

There experienced management procedures which he considered abhorrent.

Employees called in at night to find out whether there was work the next day.

Cronyism was rife, managers were a clique.

Bullying and stand-over was common

Hot desking (wait till someone vacates a seat) was common

Staff were sacked over the phone and without reason.

Workstations were inadequate and without proper design

As a telemarketer Mervyn won awards as the top "cross" and "up" seller for the centre.

He tried to protect some colleagues and was transferred to another area.

Collins St.

This area was commercial sales

Building apparently part owned by RJ Hawke

Building unsuited to telemarketing

Work stations ill designed

MV complained that curtains were filthy and had strange things lurking in them

Managers and others without notice remotely listened to and recorded customer calls

Back to Queen St.

He returned to Queen St.later on a promotion in the area of product support

He then discovered that the centre had been set up staffed by agencies in order to try to destroy union influence in the thenTelecom.

He joined the union (CPSU).

It was discovered that the centre was paying the agencies millions for nothing.

1993 Negotiations with the Union resulted in the offer of permanency for staff.

Multi-Million dollar business offers torpedoed

MV privately visited Balkans, was instrumental in having Telecom Australia phone services restored to Macedonia

Returned with offers of Balkan business worth tens of Millions of dollars Frank Blount (CEO) office messed up, opportunity lost

Further offers of Business to Mervyn from CIS with potential for Multi Million profit ignored by Telstra Management opportunity lost

The National Telemarketing Centre(NTC) was spread over a number of sites and was then consolidated at Burwood Vic.

Burwood site

The NTC alone, not including billing, directory assistance etc. was at this time rated as 7th in the world in size and better than that in terms of complex operations.

Union activities

Approached to be union rep by young colleagues who were having difficulties with food and rent due to pay errors by Telstra

MV discovered docs which showed more than 2000 pay errors in one year at NTC

First identification of Management use of Ignore, Deny and Cover-up (IDC) Syndrome.

MV fought for and won the ability to hold regular half hour union meetings in work time

Meetings were very successful and constructive

Nighthawks Newsletter

In late 1995 at request of members started a regular union newsletter called "Nighthawks Newsletter"

Nighthawks covered a number of issues and was carefully outspoken

Copies of Nighthawks were sent to Union HQ before publication. Frequently replies were delayed or not forthcoming

CPSU HQ was often seen by members to be in bed with management

Local CPSU branch was dominated by management supporters who also supported CPSU HQ

At Union elections Management gave time and support to its preferred candidates against MV but without success.

One manager was an ex CPSU official

One manager even gave a CV which contained statement that she had "mentored" CPSU at the site delegates

Consultative Committees

At the time Unions had agreement with management called the "Lorne Agreeement" for a "Consultative Approach" At Burwood there was a Consultative Committee (CC) which met monthly but could make no decisions

Advantages were workers at last got information that was not available before or after that

Management could hear worker opinions

MV justified monthly union meetings in work time arguing how could he represent opinions if could not get them

It would seem this only occurred at Burwood.

Question rises why did unions not follow this example elsewhere ?

Meetings and Nighthawks Newsletter gave feedback to staff on CC matters as well

Management opposition

Management did not like Newsletter, though they were offered space for comment or reply Management failed to do so.

For a communications company it went to extreme lengths to block interpersonal staff communication, or any group communications

Frequently managers would try to claim MV used Company equipment and materials They knew this was untrue MV had his own.

Centre manager with assistant manager got MV alone and made attack on him and the newsletter, claim made was MV using Telstra paper and equipment though they knew this to be false

Positioning to influence union events 1996

MV became concerned with what many believed to be failures of the CPSU officials to properly protect members

MV nominated for State Committee, President & Vice President

During campaign MV discovered areas which did not receive ballot papers

At Burwood MV found several supporters of the establishment with boxes full of Ballot papers still in their envelopes.

MV called Electoral Commission but did not formalize complaint as fellow unionists would have been charged and possibly jailed

Unknown and without funds for a postal campaign 

MV won a position on State Committee, came within 1500 votes of becoming vice-president

Start of the Event

August 1966

After a local meeting between management and staff, all others left 2 managers asked MV to stay behind. Accused MV again of using Corp equipment and supplies. MV pointed out they knew not so. Management stated they did not like it being distributed.

September 1966

2 weeks later an email was sent to team leaders instructing them to gather the Newsletter from staff and shred it. There is no mention of any instruction not to produce or distribute

An example of free speech and democracy

Local union members at meeting unanimously endorse the Newsletter

Sept 11

"Please explain" from team leader

MV replied no basis for Please explain and that it was further evidence of discrimination against union delegate illegal under Industrial Relations Act

Continues to produce and circulate Newsletter

On four occasions meetings of staff members unanimously endorse the Nighthawks Newsletter.

April 1997 (9 months later)

MV makes submission to Senate Inquiry into Telstra

April 10th Notification that there would be an internal inquiry by Ms Ralston a Telstra manager from another area into the Newsletter matter and there were 5 charges listed

Under FOI MV obtained a copy of his discipline file. A document in that file from the office of Ralston contained a number of misstatements

First Inquiry

Ralston Inquiry Procedural Unfairness

Ralston claimed to be a trained investigator for Telstra no evidence of such qualification was ever produced.

MV requested copies of the procedures to be followed by investigating officers and the copies of the Training Manuals. The request was refused at both State and Federal Levels of Telstra

MV was not given any copy of the rules or procedures of the inquiry

On 16th January 1995

Danita Lowes then National General Manager of NTC had stated rumours suggest that NTC will be closed and their work outsourced. The email went on to say it was untrue. And that "…… on a practical level the company would be crazy to build such a centre……..only to outsource it’s activities." The fact is that Telstra did not build the centre and Telstra did outsource many of its activities.

 

bulletMV was not informed as to:
bulletthe procedures to be used
bulletwho were to be witnesses
bulletor given any chance to hear evidence given
bulletchallenge of cross examine their evidence
bulletNo documentation was provided to MV in this court of Star Chamber

It appears that Kelly Simpson the floor manager concerned did not mention a later alleged diary entry of an instruction being given (of importance later)

MV recorded the interview between Ralston & himself.

In document dated June 5 Ralston found all charges proven and recommended dismissal

On June 4 Dr. Anne Diamond National Manager Personnel Services advised that Ralston had found all charges proven and MV was suspended from duty with pay forthwith.

The Five Charges

bulletCharge 1 Misconduct: that the said Mervyn Vogt wilfully disobeyed a direction given to him as an employee by Ms. Kelly Simpson on 26August 1996 in regard to non-distribution of Nighthawks Newsletter 27.
bulletCharge 2 that the said Mervyn Vogt is guilty of improper conduct in that he breached company policy 61 when distributing Nighthawks Newsletters without authority given from the National Manager – Communications (Corporate Affairs) in regard to each newsletter as follows:

(no not my error there is nothing after the colon) ( I had never seen this policy which actually refers to official Telstra publications)

bulletCharge 3 that the said Mervyn Vogt is guilty of improper conduct as an employee in that he breached Company Policy 31 when distributing Nighthawks Newsletters without prior approval of the Director of Corporate Affairs

( I had never seen this policy which actually refers to official Telstra publications)

bulletCharge 4 that the said Mervyn Vogt is guilty of improper conduct as an employee in that he breached Telstra’s Code of Conduct when distributing Nighthawks Newsletters by influencing personal preferences of employees in regard to personal and political matters and that this activity is deemed to be a conflict of interest with the Company.

(unbelievable !! I have never signed the Code of Conduct , and I thought that was what democracy was all about )

bulletCharge 5 that the said Mervyn Vogt is guilty of improper conduct in that he has incited fear and insecurity wit the information contained in his unauthorised distribution of Nighthawks Newsletters.

(Whoppee what powerful printed words, eat your heart out Orson Wells)

all of the 5 charges were signed by Kelly Simpson

 

In the presence of a union official Mufatti MV was forced to leave the workplace.

Subsequently MV’s union cabinet was forced open and all materials removed

The smashed cabinet was later reportedly found at the desk of a team manager who had been observed trying to pick the lock of that cabinet.

Fundamental Issues

From the charges it is clear that there were fundamental issues involved some of which were :

bulletConstitutional Implied Freedom of Speech principle put forward by Lionel Murphy C.J
bulletInternational agreements on Rights of Communication and of Association
bulletFreedom of information
bulletThe right of Union delegates to communicate
bulletBreach of parliamentary privilege
bulletDenial of Natural Justice
bulletAs only Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Trade between the states are mentioned in the Australian Constitution then I would contend this case illustrates also the need for an AUSTRALIAN BILL OF RIGHTS
bulletProcedural injustice

Telstra failed to give MV a copy of the investigating officer’s report. As there were only 14 days in which to appeal it could be seen as a delaying tactic

June 24 MV lodged Notice of Appeal

 

 

DAB DECISION

 

On the 28th August MV wrote to Robt Holland suggesting that he review his decision and requesting reconsideration in order to remove the need to take further action, without result

 
 
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Last modified: August 01, 2010

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Disclaimer: This publication and its associated sites is intended to inform the public and whistleblowers. Nothing contained in this website is to be taken to be a substitute for legal or professional advice. The author expressly disclaims liability to any person or entity for the consequences of anything done or omitted to be done in reliance in whole or in part of the contents of these publications.  The material contained herein is the result of observations and experience.