EPMU statement on Shawn Tan
10 September, 2008
Following a third meeting with a mediator present, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union has dismissed phone organiser Shawn Tan after deciding Tan's actions had irrevocably damaged the employment relationship.
Until now the union has been conducting a thorough investigation into Tan's employment issues stemming from his wish to pursue public office. The union has been unable to present its side of the story, despite coming under intense attack in the media from Tan and ACT Party representatives.
Now that the investigation is complete the union is releasing all related correspondence in the interests of transparency.
EPMU national secretary Andrew Little says the issue of Tan's candidacy was never about his political affiliations but about his obligations to his employer, as agreed by him at the outset of his employment.
The issue about candidacy could have been resolved, but the public attacks on the union by Tan and his representatives created more issues to deal with. Even though a return to work was explored as late as last night, this option simply became untenable.
"It would have been possible to resolve the issue of candidacy if Shawn had acted in good faith," says Little, "but actions such as holding a press conference outside our office and calling us racist in the middle of the first proper meeting on the issue significantly changed the relationship with Shawn and the issues got harder.
"Much has been made of Shawn's suspension from his job on full pay, however we were left with no other option when the first confirmation we had of Shawn's candidacy occurred when Shawn and his advocate, ACT Party activist Max Whitehead, insisted the candidacy would go ahead in spite of a requirement to seek approval and then suggested the union pay four months wages to avoid a ‘media storm'.
"The requirement to seek approval for candidacy was agreed to by Shawn at the time of his employment and reiterated at the meeting on July 18. Shawn's agreement to seek approval was made in the context of his disclosure at the beginning of his employment that he intended at some point to become a Green Party MP.
"It should also be noted that Shawn was employed on a probationary basis for six months because of unsatisfactory references from previous employers. The requirement for Shawn to remain focused on union work was expressly part of the probationary arrangement.
"Candidacy for political office would likely have breached that commitment, and his outside political activities were already beginning to interfere with his work. Furthermore, candidacy would have required significant time off work to campaign. Shawn had no annual leave entitlement available to him and had already taken ten days of paid leave during his five months of employment.
"Two other EPMU employees have sought approval to stand for public office this year. One was declined entirely due to operational requirements; the other was approved on the basis that her campaigning time commitments are met out of her annual leave.
"Shawn has insisted in the media that his refusal to seek approval through the proper processes is due to bullying and intimidation at a meeting on July 18. This accusation was investigated very carefully. The only comprehensive written statements came from EPMU officials Bill Newson and Robert Boswell. A full written statement was not at any stage made by Tan, who was reluctant throughout the investigation to answer questions about this meeting, including when asked by the mediator.
"The union has concluded from accounts of this meeting and subsequent email correspondence that there was no threat or intimidation as claimed by Shawn.
"We maintain that Shawn had a good faith obligation to consult with the union over his candidacy and the implications this would undoubtedly have had on his work. Shawn failed to do this. When he was suspended on full pay pending an investigation he chose to attack the union's reputation in the media. A week ago he demanded a $50,000 tax free payout to settle the issue.
"The union has explored alternatives to dismissal but in the circumstances we believe Shawn's actions have harmed the employment relationship beyond repair.In light of this his employment has been terminated."
The full documentation relating to the case can be found at www.epmu.org.nz or can be downloaded directly in PDF format at the links below:
A full timeline of events is available here.