Glencore oil trader on working practices: ‘Make money and you can do whatever you like’


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The Independent Online

An oil trader who was sacked by the commodities giant Glencore for being late or absent more than 60 times claimed on Monday that the company permitted staff to “do what you like as long as you make money”.

Andrew Kearns, 38, was employed by Glencore UK from January 2009 to October 2010, when he was summarily dismissed for serious misconduct.

Glencore, which is contesting the action at the High Court in London, says Mr Kearns failed to attend critical meetings in the morning, at lunchtime and in the afternoon of 11 October.

It also claims he did not answer his phone or emails when efforts were made to find out where he was. The company says the incident during a global conference was the final straw in a series of unauthorised alcohol-related absences that saw him absent or late for work 64 times during his time with the company.

The father-of-three admits drinking while at the conference, but claims he had no meetings that day that required his attendance. “It’s a results-driven business and I got results so it [lateness] wasn’t an issue,” he said.

Mr Kearns, who was on an annual salary of £140,000 and pocketed a £202,000 signing-on bonus in 2009, is suing Glencore for wrongful dismissal, claiming that socialising with clients late into the night was part of his job.

During the hearing in the High Court, Mr Kearns, of Gillingham, Kent, accepted there was “sustained lateness” but insisted his train was frequently late and that the company’s insistence on client entertainment contributed to his behaviour.

In a series of terse exchanges with Jonathan Cohen, the company’s barrister, Mr Kearns said: “The culture in his organisation is that you can do what you like as long as you make money.”

He added: “I accept that there is sustained lateness and I am saying that it was accepted because I made money.”

The court was guided through a series of emails from Mr Kearns to his office, apologising for his tardiness. Mr Cohen said: “Our position is that when we see an email like this, with no explanation, when you are an hour-and-a-half late for work, it is likely that that is alcohol related’.”

Mr Kearn’s replied: “The picture that you want to paint of me is that I’m a wanton alcoholic who doesn’t care about anything other than drink. I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t have binge-drinking tendencies.”

Later, when asked about the night in Singapore and the missed meeting which triggered the dismissal, Mr Kearns said he was “not aware” of the additional meeting and that he had been made “a scapegoat for massive losers”.

He also claimed to have drunk no more than ten 330ml bottles of Tiger beer that night, having been “asked to take the team out for drinks”.

Last week Mr Kearns’s claim for a share bonus of about $1m (£620,000) was struck out. The hearing continues.