A long-serving Bus Éireann bus driver said that he has been left ‘deeply traumatised’ over the manner of his constructive dismissal by the national bus firm.
Dan Fitzpatrick was today speaking after the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found that he was constructively dismissed by Bus Éireann and the bus firm has been ordered to pay Mr Fitzpatrick €10,200 in compensation
Cork native, Mr Fitzpatrick worked for 16 years in the Galway area for Bus Éireann before he was given a choice by a boss to retire or be fired as a result of an incident with an elderly passenger in November 2017.
Mr Fitzpatrick told the WRC that he was presented with a ‘Hobson’s Choice’ by his employer as he was told that if he didn’t voluntarily retire, he would be fired and he would lose his €10,000 to €15,000 retirement gratuity.
He retired on November 27, 2017, after what he described to the WRC as “a flawed and unfair disciplinary investigation” by Bus Éireann.
Mr Fitzpatrick told the WRC that he didn’t have a choice and subsequently lodged a claim for constructive dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Act with the WRC.
In his findings, WRC Adjudication Officer, Ray Flaherty said that Mr Fitzpatrick had no option but to retire when he was told failure to do so would result in him losing his retirement gratuity.
Mr Flaherty described the gratuity ultimatum to Mr Fitzpatrick as “unreasonable and unacceptable”.
He said that on a number of levels, the employer did not provide Mr Fitzpatrick with fair procedure and left him with no alternative but to retire.
Mr Fitzpatrick was forced to retire only a few months short of his 66th birthday when he was due to retire from Bus Éireann.
He said that the manner of his dismissal by Bus Éireann “has wrecked my retirement”.
"I feel vindicated by the WRC ruling because I did nothing wrong," Mr Fitzpatrick said.
I was always only interested in doing my job properly. There was no justification for what happened to me.
Mr Fitzpatrick was forced to retire after Bus Éireann brought a charge of gross misconduct concerning an incident with a passenger on November 8, 2017.
In the incident, Mr Fitzpatrick said that he physically escorted an elderly passenger off a city route bus service after a heated exchange between the two and repeated requests from Mr Fitzpatrick for the man to leave the bus.
Mr Fitzpatrick said that as he ushered the man out of the bus, the man stooped directly downwards onto one knee.
He said that once the gentleman was clear from the bus he promptly got back into his driver’s seat and proceeded to drive away.
“I have always treated my passengers with the utmost respect - especially older passengers,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.
However, the day after the incident, Mr Fitzpatrick was called to his boss’s office where he was presented with three separate CCTV tapes of what occurred and was immediately suspended pending a disciplinary hearing.
In his findings, Mr Flaherty said that comments made to Mr Fitzpatrick by a boss that “there is no excuse for this behaviour” and “you will never work in the company again” supported Mr Fitzpatrick’s contention that fair process was not followed.
Bus Éireann did not send a representative to the WRC oral hearing and today, a Bus Éireann spokeswoman said: “Bus Éireann do not comment on individual cases and we have no further comment”.