‘Pissed off’ Cruz Bar owner in Christchurch sacked bouncer over Covid isolation rules

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Cruz Bar in Christchurch, where owner Bruce Williamson unlawfully sacked one of his employees. Photo / George Heard

A bouncer who texted his boss to say he wouldn’t be in while his partner had Covid-19 “pissed off” his boss so much with the isolation he got fired.

“You are not positive, and even if you were it’s still quite legal to work as long as you are masked,” Cruz Bar owner Bruce Williamson incorrectly told bar security guard Tihei Kereopa-Rerekura.

Within a week the bouncer was sacked under the guise of redundancy without being offered a meeting he was able to attend to discuss the decision.

This week, the Employment Relations Authority ruled Williamson unjustifiably dismissed Kereopa-Rerekura over the Covid isolation and the Christchurch bar owner was ordered to pay his former employee more than $18,000.


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According to the ERA determination, Kereopa-Rerekura had been working as a guard at the gay bar since August 2020.

When his partner tested positive for Covid-19, she told Kereopa-Rerekura household contacts had to isolate too.

During a text conversation with his boss, Kereopa-Rerekura told his boss what his partner told him. Williamson then took aim at the partner.

“She’s about 20 per cent as clever as she thinks she is,” he responded to Kereopa-Rerekura, demanding he return to work. He said if he didn’t, the business would deem that an abandonment of his employment.


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“If you think that’s abandoning my job, you’re the one that’s 20 per cent clever as you think you are,” Kereopa-Rerekura replied.

As it turned out, at the time of the dispute in March 2022, Kereopa-Rerekura was correct. Household contacts were required to isolate if another household member tested positive.

Six days later Williamson emailed his employee about his “final pay”.

Kereopa-Rerekura was told he was being made redundant.

“We cannot bear the costs of poorly thought-out systems put in place by a government that is determined to destroy the economy,” Willamson told him.

He spoke of the financial pressures the business was under.

Kereopa-Rerekura, who is no longer a security guard, asked for a redundancy letter. Williamson agreed, adding some advice for his former worker.

“You have to make your own decisions in life based on common sense and your own eyes and ears tell you. Do not let governments make them for you, as much as possible.”

The following week, Kereopa-Rerekura asked to meet with his boss.

Williamson offered to meet at the bar, but Kereopa-Rerekura was still in isolation and couldn’t attend. He and another household contact had tested positive, resetting his isolation period.


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The bouncer took his case to the ERA and was awarded more than $18,000. Photo / NZME
The bouncer took his case to the ERA and was awarded more than $18,000. Photo / NZME

Kereopa-Rerekura asked to meet remotely, but Williamson did not facilitate this.

Kereopa-Rerekura sought legal advice and raised a personal grievance three weeks after being told he’d lost his job.

The same day, Willamson wrote a letter to Kereopa-Rerekura saying he had failed to respond to an offer to discuss the redundancy.

In her decision, authority member Antoinette Baker ruled that Williamson’s actions were not those of a fair and reasonable employer.

She said the redundancy was not genuine. “The bar did not close, and [Cruz Bar] continued to advertise for a bar person beyond the time Tihei left.”

“Therefore, continuing to advertise for staff in such a small business seems inconsistent with this reasoning.”


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While Williamson said he undertook the security role himself for a time, evidence was given the bar filled the role with someone from an on-hire agency.

With the supposed redundancy not stacking up, Baker said Williamson’s initial belief the bouncer had “abandoned” his employment was likely the reason he was dismissed.

She labelled it a “moveable feast in decision-making”.

“It is consistent with a reactive approach by Mr Williamson that is best described in his own words towards the end of the investigation meeting being that he was simply ‘pissed off’ with Tihei.”

Kereopa-Rerekura was awarded $18,351, made up of $15,000 in compensation, $1458 for lack of notice and $1893 in lost wages.

When contacted by NZME, Williamson hung up, and did not comment on the case.


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Ethan Griffiths covers crime and justice stories nationwide for Open Justice. He joined NZME in 2020, previously working as a regional reporter in Whanganui and South Taranaki.

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