Confirmed sacking of manager who ‘lost control’ of Port Tunnel as colleague pranked fake accident report

The Workplace Relations Committee has upheld the sacking of a department manager who ‘lost control’ of the Dublin Port Tunnel while a junior colleague used the radio system to play a ‘prank’ on a another colleague.

The labor court heard that the tunnel operator’s management viewed the January 10, 2018 incident as “the most serious incident to date in terms of severity and potential for injury or death”.

The WRC official in charge of the file agreed.

In a decision published this morning, it dismissed claims brought under the Unfair Dismissal Act 1977 by service manager Martin Browne against his employer, Egis Road and Tunnel Operation Ireland Ltd.

The court was told Mr Browne was in charge of a secure control room monitoring the Port Tunnel in Dublin and the Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork for an evening shift this Wednesday.

Ibec’s employer relations manager, Conor O’Gorman, who appeared for the tunnel operator, said that at around 6:20 p.m., a toll supervisor on duty in a nearby control room entered the room, picked up a radio and told people he was going to play a “prank” on one of the harbor tunnel emergency patrolmen.

The court was told the patrolman, identified only as AB in the decision, complained that he was wrongly told there had been a collision involving a bus in the tunnel and was asked to investigate.

“AB, in accordance with his duties and responsibilities, drove at the highest possible speed, displaying all of his vehicle’s warning lights, to the area where the accident was believed to have occurred,” he said. said Mr. O’Gorman.

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He added that the false announcement was made during evening rush hour traffic – and that AB should have been carrying out high-speed maneuvers ‘in and out of traffic lanes’.

“The potential for a real accident has therefore been greatly increased,” he said.

When AB asked for the exact location, the toll supervisor radioed: “You can’t miss it, there’s debris all over the tunnel,” Mr O’Gorman said.

AB asked again where the accident was, only to hear laughter on the radio and the toll supervisor telling him it was a “wind-up”, the attorney said.

“Don’t shoot this shit with me,” was AB’s response, according to the employer’s submission.

Only then did the duty manager step in to ‘chastise AB for his ‘radio etiquette'”, Mr O’Gorman added.

AB replied, “What about work etiquette?”

He returned to base and confronted the toll supervisor. He received an apology a few days later but filed a formal complaint over the prank, the WRC has learned.

The duty manager, Mr. Browne, two members of the control room staff and the toll supervisor were investigated in the incident.

The toll supervisor told the inquest that he had been involved in a “series of pranks” with AB and that AB had already “stuffed” him, said the head of the investigation, Jonathan Daly, in evidence.

Mr Browne told the inquest he had asthma that night, ‘wasn’t himself’ and was unaware of the incident until he heard AB swear on the radio.

The witness added that there was CCTV footage showing Mr Browne sitting less than 2.5 meters from where the toll supervisor was using the radio, and that “serious critical language”, including a “multi-vehicle collision involving a bus”, had already been used.

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According to Mr. Browne’s testimony, AB told him that everything was “worked out” after the incident and that, having taken sick leave after what had happened, he didn’t think about it again until to be called to the inquest.

Gerard Kennedy BL, who appeared for the plaintiff, said his client was denied due process in the investigation because he was denied copies of statements made against him and CCTV footage, which been used in the investigation without his consent.

He added that his client had not had the opportunity to confront his accusers.

He argued that one of the control room workers was an ‘active observant participant’ in the prank when he should have given a ‘stand down’ order and reported to Mr Browne.

Mr Kennedy added that none of the investigator’s findings supported the conclusion that Mr Browne had “the remotest knowledge” of the prank.

A disciplinary officer gave Mr Browne a final written warning – but it was turned into an appeal for summary dismissal.

The appeals officer, tunnel manager John Cleary, told the court he found that Mr Browne had ‘lost control of the tunnel…and allowed a junior colleague to take control’ for 93 seconds that night.

He concluded that Mr. Browne had “ample opportunity to intervene”, even when sick or inattentive.

“The nature of the radio communications and the use of key words and phrases would only have been missed by someone who knew it was a prank and deliberately chose not to intervene,” he discovered.

Officiating officer Marie Flynn wrote that she did not view the incident as a prank, but “a senseless act which could have resulted in injury and even death”.

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Ms Flynn found that, overall, Mr Browne ‘heard the whole incident and took no action to stop it’.

She found that her dismissal was a reasonable act on the part of the employer and dismissed the statutory complaint.