Top Iraqi diplomat in Fair Work chauffeur stoush
A top Iraqi diplomat is tangled in an industrial stoush after his personal chauffeur was allegedly sacked for missing work due to medical issues.
The Fair Work Commission recently heard the case of Ahmed Kenawy, who said he was unfairly fired from his job at the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Canberra.
Mr Kenawy said he was sacked by the embassy after turning down a long driving trip with Ambassador Hussain Al-Ameri because of problems with his back.
“It was 5pm and the ambassador asked me to go with him to Sydney, then on to Newcastle, then back to Sydney and then to Canberra,” said Mr Kenawy through an interpreter.
“I refused. I told him I wasn’t able to do so because I was having disc problems in my back and could not drive for that extended period.
“I told them I wasn’t able to drive, and I had a medical certificate to say I could not drive for more than two to three hours.”
Mr Kenawy told the hearing that when he arrived at work the following Monday, he no longer had a job.
“I would work from 3pm until late at night, 11pm or 12am. After about a month or two I started working from the morning until midnight,” he said.
“I was doing my job with the ambassador properly and in a way that was satisfactory. I never rejected anything he asked me to do. I went with him everywhere,” he added.
The tribunal was also told the Iraqi Embassy had forced employees to take pay cuts in early 2016 because its finances were in dire straits.
All staff were eventually paid their full wages later that year, Mr Kenawy said.
“When they reduced my salary from $US2000 ($AUD2600) a month to $US600 (AUD$780) a month I didn’t object,” Mr Kenawy said.
“But one day when I was ill, with a medical certificate, the ambassador didn’t accept that and unfairly dismissed me.”
Deputy president John Kovacic asked the Iraqi Embassy to explain why it was disputing Mr Kenawy’s claim, despite offering no evidence throughout the proceedings.
“The embassy has led no evidence at all in this case,” deputy president Kovacic said.
“It hasn’t challenged his evidence.”
Embassy official Ahmed Kareem argued that Mr Kenawy had a personal contract with the ambassador, rather than any official employment with the embassy.
“The reason why I believe it was not unfair is that there is no written contract. It was just a verbal agreement between Mr Kenawy and the ambassador,” Mr Kareem said through an interpreter.
“The ambassador employed him on the basis that he would be flexible and take the ambassador anywhere he wants,” he added.
Mr Kenawy disputed the embassy’s explanation, telling the hearing that he had a signed a contract in early July but was never given a copy.
“I asked after I signed it, but they said it would be translated into Arabic and English and they would give me two copies. I never received those copies,” he said.
The hearing took a strange turn at the end when Mr Kenawy asked Mr Kareem to answer questions about the dismissal after swearing on the Koran.
Mr Kareem declined to swear an oath on the Koran, but was briefly cross examined after instead giving a verbal affirmation.
The Fair Work Commission will soon deliver its ruling on the matter.