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Airport worker receives justice – two years after his death

[A]n Isle of Man airport worker, who was unfairly dismissed from his job, has been unanimously vindicated by an employment tribunal – more than two years after his death.

Unite, the UK’s largest union, hailed the decision in favour of Shaun McGee, who died in March 2014 at the age of 51, as a very welcome recognition that his good character has been restored, albeit posthumously.

Shaun McGee’s ordeal began in December 2012 when he was dismissed from his job as an apron hand at the airport due to grounds of capability. He had been employed at the airport for seven years and had a very good work record. He lived in Douglas.

That month, he had had been convicted of a minor offence of criminal damage arising from a neighbour dispute and a small fine was imposed. The employer firstly suspended and then dismissed Shaun McGee because he required an airport pass for his work and the criminal damage conviction meant that a pass could only be issued if the conviction was disregarded.

The head of the infrastructure department, Ian Thompson agreed to issue a certificate of disregard in relation to the conviction and this was presented by Mr McGee to his employer through the airport manager Ann Reynolds, however she decided not to accept the certificate and his job was terminated. He left the airport’s employment in February 2013. Shaun McGee pursued a complaint of unfair dismissal, but he died in early 2014.

His case was taken up by his union, Unite and the tribunal concluded unanimously that Mr McGee had done nothing wrong and in no way did he cause or contribute to his dismissal, and that he was unfairly dismissed.

Unite regional officer Eric Holmes said: “We are delighted that justice has been done at last, even though sadly it was posthumously for Shaun and the family he left behind – his last months marred by an unfair and ill-balanced decision by his employer.

“We are jubilant, however, that his character has now been restored as being that of a ‘good and proper person’.

“Shaun was unfortunate to have been the subject of an unfair and unappealable decision by his director Ann Reynolds, who showed scant regard to the fact that his colleagues and other senior management within the airport’s structure supported him and would have welcomed him back.

“In fact, the chief executive at the time for the department of infrastructure, Ian Thompson gave Ms Reynolds a certificate of disregard to allow Shaun to have his airside security pass renewed.

“Sadly both she and the minister in charge at the time David Cretney chose to ignore all these facts and both stood by her sole and unreasonable opinion that he was untrustworthy

“The employment tribunal at Douglas decided that she was wrong in her actions and that Shaun McGee was unfairly dismissed from a job he would, no doubt, have continued in up to his retirement.

“Unfortunately, he passed away and lost the opportunity to clear his name and fight the decision to dismiss him.

“However the fact he was a member of Unite and had already engaged in the process of an appeal for unfair dismissal, both he and his family continued to be covered and protected, despite him being deceased. For the memory of Shaun McGee, justice has prevailed.”

The claim was defended by the department of infrastructure. The case raised a number of technical issues, but on 13 May 2016 the tribunal panel issued a unanimous decision finding that Shaun McGee had been unfairly dismissed. The tribunal concluded that he should never have been dismissed.

The tribunal statement said: “He had a very good work record and those who worked with him, including supervisors, would have been very happy for him to return to work. He had a reputation for honesty and his character was such that he was known as someone involved in raising funds for charity.

“Unfortunately Mrs Reynolds did not take this information into account and she did not appear to understand the procedure for considering this type of very minor conviction.”

A remedy hearing has been scheduled for 1 July to consider the level of compensation that should be awarded in this case.

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