Refugee 'unfairly' sacked from Byron Bay Superfoods

THE FAIR Work Commission has labelled the dismissal of a Byron Bay Superfoods employee "vindictive" when it sacked a refugee for complaining about being underpaid.

In a finding handed down in Sydney on May 22, the Commission found former Sudanese man Nathaniel Garang was unfairly dismissed last year from the Bangalow company which makes snacks including Wallaby Bites and Jumbles.

Mr Garang arrived to Australia in 2005 on a humanitarian visa after losing his father and siblings in a civil war as a four-year-old, and became an Australian Citizen in 2009, describing himself as "a proud Aussie" to the Commission.

He began working at the company as a casual on $21 an hour in 2014 and then a full-time employee in March 2015 on an hourly rate of $22.01. Shortly after, the Commission heard evidence Mr Garang was bullied, with references being made at to his nationality.

When Garang fell ill and produced a medical certificate that he had gastroenteritis, the health food factory challenged the medical certificate; said his time off was "unacceptable" and that the time should be taken out as his annual leave.

Often, the father-of-three was required to work unpaid for 40 minutes a day and to take a day off during quiet periods as annual leave.

Last year in August Mr Garang complained about being underpaid and insisted on being paid according to the relevant modern award, when his manager threatened to never recommend him "due to your recent dishonest behaviour" and after terminating his employment tried to stop him from getting Centrelink payments.

Evidence showed the company tried to prevent Mr Garang from getting Centrelink benefits by refusing to provide him with a separation certificate for the purpose of a Newstart allowance.

In its judgement, Fair Work Commission vice-president Adam Hatche stated the company's conduct following the dismissal can only be characterised as vindictive" and that Mr Garang's dismissal was "harsh, unjust and unreasonable" and found he should receive $10,694.84 in compensation.

Fair Work Commission vice-president Adam Hatche found Mr Garang's evidence to be credible.

"His evidence was clear, consistent, and supported by the limited amount of contemporaneous documentation that was available," he said.

While the evidence of Byron Bay Superfoods managing director Paul Owies was found to be "highly problematic" and "marked by inconsistencies".

"... the evidence discloses ... conduct on the part of Mr Owies ... which was destructive of his credibility," Mr Hatche said.

This is despite the company's defence Mr Garang was made redundant because some Byron Bay Superfoods' products had been deleted from Woolworths and Coles shelves.

Byron Bay Superfoods told Fairfax media it was disappointed by the commission's judgment and would appeal, while Mr Garang told Fairfax Media he was "really hurt by the terrible treatment".

ByronBay Superfoods has been contacted for comment. 

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