THE Australian Army has launched an investigation into Nestle’s Tongala factory after an Army Reserve soldier was dismissed there late last year.
The investigation is being led by a Melbourne-based Lieutenant Colonel.
An Army spokesman said Defence would not discuss details of specific matters before the Office of Reserve Service Protection but generally the circumstances and nature of each complaint being considered will influence whether a matter is pursued under the criminal code or through civil penalties.
“The Defence Reserve Service Protection (DRSP) Act 2001 provides a means for matters to be dealt with through alternate dispute resolutions, including mediation where appropriate,” the spokesman said.
“The ORSP handles approximately 1300 enquiries every year from both Reservists and employers seeking assistance with understanding their rights, obligations and responsibilities,” he said.
“Few enquiries progress to an investigation.
“The Defence Reserve Service Protection (DRSP) Act 2001, which was further strengthened in November 2017, makes it unlawful for an employer, business partner or educational institution to discriminate against an individual because of their service as a Reservist.”
Dale Norwood has claimed he was improperly terminated by Nestle because of his need for time off each year – including a three-month deployment in 2014-15 to Malaysia – with his Reserve commitments.
Mr Norwood, a private in the Army Reserve, started at Nestle in 2011 and joined as a Reservist in 2013.
He said it was always a struggle to get the time off for his Army work but in 2017 it all unravelled.
“My dismissal was based on an accusation I had accessed another staff member’s email account and used it to send a message,” Mr Norwood said.
“That is not what happened and I believe the manager, whose account the email came from, confirmed he had sent it,” he said.
“I AM not looking for a fight, I just want my job back and to keep doing my work with the Army Reserve. I am just trying to do my bit and this whole saga is having a bad impact on me.
“I really like my job and the people I work with and I just want to put all this behind me – I have worked closely with a lot of them, even trained a lot of them when Nestle introduced health science food production at Tonny.
“I don’t want any compensation; I just want to get back to work.”
Mr Norwood said his dismissal had also caused him financial hardship as he had bought a block of land in Moama and the plans for the house he wanted to build were ready to be submitted for council approval.
“But I can hardly go to a bank for finance without a job,” he said.
Nestle declined to answer a series of questions from the Kyabram Free Press.
Instead it sent the following reply:
“We are not in a position to discuss Mr Norwood’s employment. This is because we treat the reason an employee leaves Nestle as confidential, unless there are public proceedings such as an unfair dismissal hearing (which is not the case here), or the former employee has waived confidentiality by initiating disclosure.
“That said, Nestlé is aware of the inquiry by the Office of Reserve Service Protection, and is cooperating fully.
“A number of Nestlé employees are members of Australia’s Army Reserve, and we aware of our obligations to support them as they perform this important community role. As well as granting the leave they need to participate in the Army Reserve, Nestle pays them up to 10 days leave each year for Army Reservist service in addition to their normal leave provisions.”Around 38,000 Australians play a crucial role in the nation’s security by serving as Reservists in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). They are volunteers who are prepared to take on new challenges and build on their civilian skills and experience through valuable military training. They show a strong commitment to Australia and contribute to the capability of the ADF locally, nationally and overseas. This includes serving in the Middle East, operating on patrol boats engaged in border security operations, and providing assistance to Australian communities in times of natural disasters.