A veteran postman who forged a customer’s signature and left her undelivered parcels in a rubbish bin was sacked for gross misconduct – despite his claims that the householder had ‘agreed’ to the plan.
Samuel Shirley, a postman in the Glasgow area for 26 years, said he had a ‘long-standing’ deal with the householder to leave her deliveries in the bin if she was out.
But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry; and a tribunal heard that on one occasion the homeowner missed his red note telling her about the delivery.
The bin was emptied the following morning by the dustmen and the parcels were taken away with the rest of the rubbish.
Mr Shirley, who two months earlier attended a talk in which postmen were told not to leave items ‘unsecured’, was fired for gross misconduct.
He appealed his sacking at an employment tribunal. But employment judges have now sided with bosses at Royal Mail, who ruled that his dismiss was ‘not unfair’.
Samuel Shirley, a postman in the Glasgow area for 26 years, said he had a ‘long-standing’ deal with the householder to leave her deliveries in the bin if she was out. Pictured: Library image of a postman
The tribunal, held in Glasgow in September, heard how told the postman first began working at the Glasgow delivery office in 1993.
In January 2019, three months before his sacking, he attended an annual meeting about deliveries.
During the meeting, staff were reminded of the ‘obligations’ of the Royal Mail and its staff not to leave parcels and letters ‘unsecure’.
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The panel heard the meeting was held on the anniversary of Mr Shirley’s mother’s death. Hos lawyers claimed that Mr Shirley ‘might have been there in body but not of mind’.
Two months later, Mr Shirley left the two parcels in a blue bin next to a customer’s house and signed for a parcel on her behalf, the panel heard.
She then made a complaint as she not retrieved them before the bins were collected.
The tribunal was told Mr Shirley thought they would be safe as bins were not emptied until the next day.
He said he had a ‘long-standing agreement’ of more than two years with the householder – something which the Royal Mail confirmed.
However he told the tribunal that two women lived at the address – who he believed to be mother and daughter.
He said that while he had an agreement with the householder, he did not have the same agreement with the other woman.
Royal Mail launched an investigation and the customer who submitted the complaint admitted that she had an informal agreement as outlined by Mr Shirley.
Despite this, he was sacked in April 2019 without notice. He appealed on the basis the ‘penalty was too harsh’.
But Alan Rankin, Royal Mail’s appeal officer, concluded that Mr Shirley had done it so that he could ‘finish early’ and rejected his appeal, the panel heard.
Mr Shirley then took the matter to an employment tribunal. However his claim for unfair dismissal failed.
Royal Mail’s appeal officer, concluded that Mr Shirley had done it so that he could ‘finish early’ and rejected his appeal, the panel heard. Pictured: Library image
The panel, headed by employment judge Peter O’Donnell, concluded: ‘Mr Shirley’s comments about the customer not checking her bin indicated a lack of remorse and was an attempt to shift blame to the customer.
‘The tribunal found his answers to be evasive and an attempt to avoid admitting that he did know that he had acted in a manner which was a breach of Royal Mail’s rules.
‘There was also evidence from Mr Shirley that he was aware that he should not be leaving items or signing for mail although his position was not always consistent.
‘However, the tribunal considers that the decision-makers did have evidence from Mr Shirley that he did know the correct procedures.
‘No matter how much sympathy the Tribunal may have with Mr Shirley, it was not for the tribunal to substitute its own decision
‘Mr Shirley also stuck to the position that his agreement with the customer excused his actions without ever really accepting that he should never have made this in the first place.
‘The tribunal considered that it was reasonable for both Alan Mullen, the dismissing officer, and Mr Rankin to conclude that Mr Shirley, if he had continued in employment, could not have been trusted to not do the same thing again.’