Sunday 22 April 2018

Irish Rail superintendent 'compelled' to work three years after taking voluntary redundancy, court hears

A judge has ruled that the Irish Rail superintendent. based at Portlaoise rail depot, was entitled to avail of redundancy because a binding offer had been made to him.
A judge has ruled that the Irish Rail superintendent. based at Portlaoise rail depot, was entitled to avail of redundancy because a binding offer had been made to him.

AN Irish Rail depot superintendent was compelled to continue working for nearly three years after an offer of a voluntary redundancy package in 2006 was withdrawn, the High Court heard.

Today, a judge ruled Michael Browne, based at Portlaoise rail depot, was entitled to avail of that redundancy because a binding offer had been made to him.

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan will hear arguments in the New Year as to what Mr Browne is now entitled to.

The judge found he had been effectively compelled to continue working until 2009, when he reached retirement age of 65, because it would have been "quite unrealistic for him to do otherwise". 

His job was to oversee the making of concrete sleepers used on rails throughout the country.

Mr Browne had sued the company claiming the offer of redundancy he signed in September 2006 was binding on both him and the company.

Irish Rail argued the offer and its acceptance only became binding once a business case for permitting the redundancy was actually approved by senior management.

The court heard that after signing the "voluntary severance offer" in September 2006, Mr Browne went on annual leave expecting not to have to return.

On September 22, the day of his daughter's wedding, he got a phone call from his line supervisor telling him his redundancy had not in fact been approved and he had to return to work at the end of the month. 

"The news was as disappointing as it was unexpected", the judge said.

Irish Rail's chief financial officer told the court Mr Browne's severance offer was signed by him (Browne) in advance of either the formulation or acceptance of a business case for his redundancy, the judge said.

The company's then human resources director, John Keenan, had told the court the existence of a positive business case was essential to the voluntary severance process, the judge also said.

Under established legal principle, it was hard to see Mr Brown's acceptance of the severance offer was "anything other than the acceptance of a unilateral offer made by the company which then became binding," the judge said.

This was especially so given that an earlier version of the offer had expressly warned it was simply an estimate to which the parties were not committed.  

A second version - the one Mr Browne signed  and had witnessed - contained no such stipulation, the judge said.

Viewed objectively, it is hard to avoid the view that anybody familiar with this documentation would have concluded that Mr Browne had just accepted a unilateral offer which the company had made to him, he said.

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