The Guardian 9 November, 2005
Childcare worker sacked while on holiday
A Sydney childcare centre director is fighting an unfair dismissal case after her boss sent a stranger around to her home, while she was on holidays, with a legal letter claiming she had "abandoned her job" and so she should consider herself sacked.
Colleen Hughes' union — the LHMU Child Care Union — is taking her employer to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission with an unfair dismissal case.
The union's NSW President, Jim Lloyd, points out that this might be one of the last unfair dismissal cases if the Howard Government is able to push through their industrial relations laws over the next few weeks.
"We hope to get her case heard expeditiously. We are lucky that we still have unfair dismissal laws in this country", Mr Lloyd stated.
"Once John Howard passes his laws people like Colleen Hughes will NOT be able to take an unfair dismissal case with their union to the Commission.
"Instead if Colleen wanted to appeal against her unfair sacking she would need to find about $30,000 out of her own pocket to take her boss to court."
Ms Hughes, 27, was appointed director of The Kids Club Kindergarten in Wooloowara Rd, Cronulla, by the new owner, Jason Caughlan, after he bought the centre 10 months ago.
She worked at the same centre for seven years without any problems with the previous owner. Her performance on the job has never been questioned.
"If my old boss still owned the centre I would still be there", she said.
After Caughlan appointed Ms Hughes as the Director of the centre he started demanding she sack some of her staff — and disagreements over the alleged failure to pay superannuation to the workforce began.
"He was asking me to sack staff — even though I knew that they were good childcare workers who hadn't done anything wrong.
"If I had gone ahead and sacked them it would have meant we did not have the proper staffing which could have endangered our ability to operate under the law", Ms Hughes explained.
"I had no reason to sack anyone. I've been working there for seven years and I would have known if there were any staff problems. Everyone working there loved the children and worked hard for the children.
"The staff were especially angry because while he wanted to get rid of them we were being told of plans to expand the centre."
"This unfair dismissal, while I was away on holiday, has upset my family.
"Mum and dad are angry that Mr Caughlan never rang — he just sent a stranger to knock on our door and hand me a termination letter.
"It's a time when I should be celebrating because I have just got engaged. Instead I am constantly walking around under a black cloud."
Ms Hughes, a member of the LHMU Child Care Union, has with her union lodged unfair dismissal papers on Monday with the NSW Industrial Commission.