Saturday, July 07, 2007

Building company constructs dodgy artifice

This brilliant example of an Argument by Artifice involves a company that made a labourer a director to avoid complying with a union workplace agreement:

Gary Forsyth was employed as a labourer by the company... Mr Forsyth told the Industrial Relations Commission the company's managing director, Robin Hancock, had met him and said he wanted to appoint him as a company director.

...Mr Forsyth said he had told Mr Hancock he would leave his then job if the company could match his $23.31 hourly rate of pay. According to Mr Forsyth, Mr Hancock said the company could match the rate, but told him the managing director "was not really union, and that he put everyone on as a director to get around the union and the enterprise agreement".

He worked for the company for several months before contacting the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union about his entitlements. After being sacked in February, Mr Forsyth lodged an application with the commission, claiming that his employment had been terminated unlawfully. But lawyers for the company moved to have the claim thrown out, arguing that Mr Forsyth was a director of the company and not an employee. However, the commission found Mr Forsyth was an employee, was supervised by a leading hand or foreman, was subject to the direction of his supervisor, and was paid a flat hourly rate from which the company deducted tax instalments. The commission said it was not satisfied Mr Forsyth was ever a director of the company, and that he was an employee from last October to February this year.

...up to seven other workers were employed as company directors.

The reasoning used in an Argument by Artifice may be specious, tendentious, flawed in logic and unjust in effect; the end goal is all that drives the argument. In this case the mendacious company (and their devious lawyers) attempted to use a self serving obfuscation to achieve their goal. In order to do this they have put forward an obviously contrived and unfounded assertion, that a labourer was actually a company director. Any fair-minded and objective observer would perceive this as artificially constructed. It's a good thing the Industrial Relations Commission seems to be one such observer.