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Servo hold-up ends in sacking

A Woolworths service station console operator of three years’ service has been unsuccessful in his bid for an unfair dismissal claim, after he failed to follow policies relating to hold-ups and robbery.

In early October 2016 the operator, who was employed at the Beckenham service station, was alone in the store when he was confronted by a customer who placed several items on the counter and said “Give me the money”.

The operator said he was confused because he thought the customer wanted change, and told him he had to pay first, however the customer said “give me the money or I’ll jump the counter”, which made the operator realise the customer wanted money from the till.

The customer then said, “Okay, give me the smokes,” at which point more customers came into the store.

The customer then took his items from the counter and left the store without paying, after nearly two minutes at the counter.

The operator contacted his site manager, but had to be told in two different phone calls to contact the police and shut down the store.

The site manager dismissed the operator (with three weeks’ pay in lieu of notice) for failing to correctly follow the Armed Robbery / Hold-ups procedure.

The procedure instructs employees how to respond if they suspect someone is trying to attempt a robbery or armed hold up, and Woolworths operators are given refresher training in the procedure once every two months. The procedure is as follows:

  • Obey the offender’s demands.
  • Avoid any action that might incite the offender to violence.
  • Do not try to outsmart the offender.
  • Do precisely as you are told.
  • Don’t take any risks: Obey the offender’s instruction
  • As soon as the offender has left and it’s safe to do so, activate the hold-up alarm and lock the doors.
  • Seal off the area and preserve the crime scene.

Woolworths also trains employees to follow this checklist after the offender is gone:

  • Immediately activate the silent alarm system (panic button)
  • Lock the doors so the offender cannot return.
  • Call police on 000.
  • Report the incident to management.
  • Complete an offender description form.

The operator said he did not have to follow the procedures because the offender was not armed, however the Fair Work panel found this argument was made to counter Woolworths’ criticisms of his actions to avoid disciplinary consequences.

The operator had received a written warning for failing to follow food safety procedures three days prior to the incident, and had been warned that any further unacceptable conduct could result in termination.

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