Shipwright claims discrimination in redundancy

A shipwright with 33 years' experience claimed he was discriminated against because of his age when he was made redundant last year.

Keith Andersen was working as a shipwright - a ship carpenter - for Fullers when he was made redundant in September last year, after 33 years working for the Auckland ferry company.

But Mr Andersen took his redundancy to the Employment Relations Authority, claiming he was unjustifiably dismissed and was discriminated against because of his age.

Fullers acknowledged that his age was a factor in its consideration, but said he was not discriminated against.

Mr Andersen's role was disestablished when the business went though a major review in 2009.

After his job had been declared surplus to requirements Mr Andersen and Fullers looked into possible redeployment.

Mr Andersen was eventually offered employment as a freight assistant, which he accepted on a fixed-term contract.

But Mr Andersen claimed prior to that that he was discriminated against on the grounds of his age when discussing new roles.

In a meeting Fullers said that Mr Andersen would not fit in with the "young people texting on the ferries", Mr Andersen told the ERA.

At a later meeting another Fullers manager said Mr Andersen could not perform the onboard services role because it would "cause friction".

Mr Andersen said that when pressed, the company had confirmed it was because he was too old.

"The evidence before the authority is plain that Mr Andersen's age was a factor that was taken into account in respect of his suitability for the onboard services role," ERA member James Crichton said.

But Mr Crichton said the issue was whether Mr Andersen's age was causative of Fullers' decision on the onboard services role.

He concluded that the dominant reason for Fullers to not offer the position was not age, "but the unsuitability of the position by reason if the combination of the much lower wage rate and the fixed term nature of the engagement".

Mr Crichton ruled that Mr Andersen's claims of unjustified dismissal and discrimination on the grounds of age had not been made out.


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