School bus driver ‘drove 120km/h’
A SCHOOL bus driver who drove as fast as 120km/h and intimidated children by accelerating while they were still standing to make them fall into their seats has been sacked after parents complained.
Peter Anderson filed an application for unfair dismissal after being summarily dismissed in July by West Australian family business Melbin Holdings, based in Bookara south of Geraldton, where he had worked since March 2014.
The Fair Work Commission was told the company had received a number of complaints from parents, including from one mother who said her son was "scared of Mr Anderson and doesn't want to catch the bus".
Parents said Mr Anderson "never waited for the children to put their seat belts on" and "always starts to drive the bus away from the bus stop before the children are seated and they all fall into their seats".
According to the Fair Work decision, he was accused of speeding, dangerous driving and being rude and shouting at parents and children. One parent said Mr Anderson once called her young child a "unit".
"The reason for termination was that Peter was, he wasn't willing to change and to take on board that some parents had issues with him," Quentin Melbin told the Commission.
"The warnings were there and he needed to slow down and try and just be a little bit more rounded with children, not intimidating them so much."
One parent claimed she had "driven behind Mr Anderson's bus and seen him speeding at as much as 120km/h", another said she clocked him going "70km/h in a 50km/h zone on regular occasions", while another said she saw him "go around the corner in a 50km/h zone and it looked like the bus was going to roll onto its side".
Mr Anderson was said to have asked one student "questions in an unfair and unfriendly way" while "(staring) at him for a long and uncomfortable length of time through the rear-view mirror".
The woman said when her son responded, Mr Anderson "commonly shakes his head from side to side". "In the mornings Mr Anderson does not acknowledge the parents or any of the children getting on the bus," the complaint said.
Mr Melbin said he first tried to deal with the issues by reducing Mr Anderson's hours down from 20 hours per week to eight hours and only letting him drive in the afternoons "so the kids hopping on the bus weren't intimidated to go to school".
"That's why I had him on the run in the afternoons, so he was still getting income, he was still driving the buses and the kids were not getting stressed and the parents were not getting stressed trying to get the children on the buses," he said.
But Mr Anderson refused to accept any change to his hours or that there was an issue with his driving or behaviour, leaving the company with no choice but to sack him.
Two witnesses gave evidence on his behalf. One neighbour said she had known him for 10 years and he had been driving her children for four years, and that he was "always cheerful and has a good sense of humour".
An employee at the local high school gave a character reference saying she believed he had "done his job professionally and is respectful to both students and staff".
Under the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code, the employer must "genuinely hold" the belief that the employee's behaviour was "sufficiently serious" to justify immediate dismissal.
Fair Work Commissioner Bruce Williams said the question was whether Mr Melbin's belief that was the case was "objectively speaking, based on reasonable grounds".
"Prior to June 2018 parents had complained to Mr Melbin about Mr Anderson's behaviour towards their children and themselves," Mr Williams said.
"Considered objectively, Mr Melbin's belief that Mr Anderson had behaved as the parent stated in her complaint was based on reasonable grounds."
Mr Williams rejected the application, saying "in all the circumstances" he was satisfied the dismissal was consistent with the Code.
In January, a Victorian school bus driver sacked for taking photographs of children also lost a bid for unfair dismissal. Last year, a Canberra bus driver won his job back after being bashed in violent road rage incident.