Ex-Freeport tug master dismissed by SMS claims unjust termination, accuses union of failing to help

A disabled former Freeport tug master has filed a judicial protest against the company, claiming to have been summarily dismissed via SMS for no good reason 

File photo
File photo

A disabled former Freeport tug master has filed a judicial protest against the company, claiming to have been summarily dismissed via SMS for no good reason and that his request to be heard by an ad hoc tribunal was ignored, also accusing his trade union of inaction.

Lawyer David Gatt filed the judicial protest before the First Hall of the Civil Court this morning on behalf of Ivan Attard, a 45-year-old tugboat master from Birzebbugia.

Attard is claiming unjust dismissal on the grounds that he had not been summoned to appear before a disciplinary board and given the opportunity to make a defence, as had happened in cases involving other employees in his trade.

The judicial protest calls upon the court to hold Malta Freeport Terminals, the Malta Dockers Union and Freeport Senior Planner Loris Scardino liable in damages.

In the document filed in court, Attard said he has a disability which does not impede him in his work.

An attempt by the Commissioner for Disabled Persons (KNPD) to intervene in the case was also ignored, Attard claims.

The plaintiff had been employed as a Tug Master at the Freeport for several years, a job assigned to him by the Malta Dockers Union.

He explained that between 20 and March this year, he had received an SMS from the Freeport sent by Loris Scardino, informing him that he had been fired and was prohibited from accessing the Freeport terminal from then on.

Attard said that the only infraction that he could suspect as being behind this drastic measure was the fact that he had swapped the vehicle which he had been allocated.

But this was a common practice amongst his fellow drivers and would generally only be followed up with a warning, saying that this would be confirmed by the testimony of Union representatives, as well as his colleagues.

Despite this, the protest goes on to specify that Scardino had insisted on Attard’s dismissal and had not allowed the plaintiff to be heard by the ad hoc disciplinary board, which had been set up to hear similar cases.

Attard also claims that the Commissioner for Persons with Disability had intervened on his behalf, but despite this, nothing had changed, and the refusal to allow him to be heard by a disciplinary board remained in place, even after a recommendation had been made to this effect by the Commissioner.

The judicial protest also states that the Dockers Union had failed to ensure a fair hearing for Attard, unlike what it had done in other similar cases.

Even though Attard had immediately complied with the order to leave, he said Scardino had personally filed a report at the Birzebbugia police station, alleging that the former employee had struck a metal barrier at the terminal.

This allegation was true, said the plaintiff, but argued that it was his vehicle which had been damaged, not the barrier.

Although three months had passed since the man had been informed of his dismissal, said his lawyer, he had not received any reply to his request for a fair hearing, adding that “this was certainly not adequate in a 21st Century society where workers’ rights are protected.”