FORTUNATO Perri was, according to his ex-employer, a good concreter. But after 15 years with Anglo Italian Concrete, it was a smile at the wrong time that cost him his job. Or was it a smirk?
Mr Perri this week won an unfair dismissal claim against Anglo Italian, which summarily dismissed him last April after he either smiled or smirked during a meeting called only to warn him over a dangerous safety breach. He had had a good record at the company.
''From our end, he was dismissed for his perceived lack of concern for workplace safety,'' Anglo Italian general manager Chris Collett said on Wednesday.
The concreter had been at a Deer Park building site operating a trowel driver, a piece of heavy machinery for smoothing concrete. Mr Perri was seen giving a colleague a lift for about 20 metres on the machine, something he later admitted was extremely dangerous.
Mr Collett told the commission the breach could ''have resulted in them probably dying, one of them at least, if not being severely injured, and we don't want that behaviour in our workplace''.
But when Mr Perri was interviewed a month after the incident, he either smiled or smirked at his boss. He was then sacked, a move Fair Work commissioner David Gregory ruled was unfair.
Mr Perri, who now works for another concrete firm, said that for many years his managers had been happy with his work. ''It was wrong to sack me over such a simple misunderstanding,'' he said.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, which represented Mr Perri, told the commission it was ''inherently unreliable to dismiss a worker based on one person's interpretation of that worker's facial expression''.
Another worker at Anglo Italian who was with Mr Perri when he was sacked said his manager had said in a raised voice: ''Don't be a f---ing smart arse; we could have you sacked for this.'' Mr Perri is said to have replied: ''If you want to sack me, then sack me,'' after which he was told to get out.