Community Connections executive 'blinded by loyalty'

A FAIRWORK Australia commissioner has questioned the “blind loyalty” shown by the senior staff of former south-west service provider Community Connections towards the chief executive officer.

A suppression order was yesterday lifted, three-and-a-half years after an unfair dismissal case was heard in Warrnambool.

Employee Gary Lucas took action against the now defunct Community Connections, claiming he was unfairly sacked.

FairWork Australia commissioner Wayne Blair backed Mr Lucas and awarded him four months’ pay after the employee said he did not want to return to work for the organisation.

The commissioner described as harsh, unjust and unreasonable Mr Lucas’ employment termination, adding there was no valid reason for his sacking.

Mr Blair then made a number of observations about the Community Connections executive officers and chief executive officer Bruce Du Vergier.

He said there appeared to be a blind loyalty among the Community Connections executive staff to the CEO.

“That blind loyalty, in the tribunal’s view, distorts any objective thinking that the executive officers need to do, particularly if allegations are made against the CEO of bullying or harassment,” Mr Blair said.

“The tribunal also found the CEO to be somewhat evasive in his answers and where he did provide a response to questions he was, at times, overly dramatic.”

Mr Blair said he did not question the ability or integrity of the executive members — just their objectivity because of their loyalty.

Community Connections, which was the main service provider to families and children in south-west Victoria, eventually folded after government funding was withdrawn.

Commissioner Blair originally suppressed his decisions in an attempt to protect the reputation of Community Connections and the services it provided to some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

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