Cancer Sacked

Reporter: Andrea Burns

Mauro Minervini is 17. Fighting cancer. He's also fighting a boss who fired him for needing time off to treat the life threatening illness. Parents Maria and Phil are angry, "gotta live a life, gotta have a future, gotta set goals and his goals are all shattered"

Just a few months ago, Mauro was a very typical teenager. Loved sports, his mates, and his family. A new job as a trainee estimator at a Perth building company was icing on the cake, a happy and secure future to look forward to. Then, disaster. Doctors diagnosed on going flu-like symptoms and an ache under Mauro's arm Non Hodgkins lymphoma. Cancer.

Mauro says he told his boss the same day, then he received a termination letter the next day. "Thank you for taking the time today to let us know your current situation. We were sad to hear that you are unable to continue working for us as your medical condition will keep you away for some time"

Mauro has taken a claim to the Industrial Relations Commission CFMEU lawyer Gavin McLean is supporting Mauro's legal fight. "It's a balanced approach, workplace relations act casts an obligation on an employer not to terminate someone cos of an illness, but it recognises that if that illness means an employee is away for 3 months in a 12 month period, it's fair after that delay, that the business has no choice but to terminate that person, unfit as that situation is"

Fair Employment advocate Helen Creed says it's a tough balancing act between what's legal and what's fair for both employees and bosses, "I don't think the law is written to envisage this sort of situation" Susan Rooney from the Cancer Council says it's good business practice for organisations to respond well to people with cancer, "one in three men and one in four women in their lifetime will be diagnosed with cancer, it's a matter of when you're going to have to deal with the issue of cancer in the workplace"

The Cancer Council's even produced a booklet to outline rights and responsibilities... Susan Rooney says there's not only the financial benefit to cancer patients of continuing work. "It's also the social impact of being at work there's also the feeling that people have of maintaining a life , maintaining the capacity to be productive to be able to make a difference - and that makes a huge difference in terms of people's well being while they're going through treatment"

The company declined an interview but in a statement, the General Manager said it was inappropriate to debate the case in the media because it is before the Industrial Relations Commission and it may frustrate the outcome. They did say the company is sympathetic, but claims the Minervini family have a different view of the meeting, which resulted in Mauro leaving the company. 75 per cent of patients with Non Hodgkins lymphoma are still alive a year later. As Mauro continues the fight for life, his parents say they're also fighting - for their son's life after cancer.

For details on where you can contribute to a fund set up to help Mauro Minervini call the CFMEU WA on ( 08) 9221 1055 during office hours.

For more details on working with cancer go to:

www.cancercouncil.com.au/workingwithcancer