A MECHANIC who worked for the same firm for almost 50 years has been awarded more than £70,000 after winning his claim for constructive dismissal.

Donald McKenzie, described as "dedicated, loyal and hardworking", launched legal action against the Pentland Motor Company after the firm refused to pay him the level of sickness pay agreed in his contract while he was off work suffering from stress after being allegedly threatened by the son of the garage’s previous owner.

The 63-year-old resigned in protest and took the company to an industrial tribunal, and won £73,482 in damages and loss of wages.

The tribunal heard that Mr McKenzie had spent his life in the motor trade, and started work at a garage in Aberlour, Aberdeenshire, in 1967 when he was 15-years-old.

At the time the business was owned by Frank Ogg, who opened a second garage in Elgin in 1992, to which Mr McKenzie transferred. Both garages held the local Land Rover dealership.

However, problems arose last year when the firm was sold to the Pentland Motor Company at a time when Mr McKenzie was suffering from stress following an altercation with Mr Ogg's son Jason.

In a written judgment employment judge James Hendry said: "Because of pressures in the business, and following an incident at work involving Mr Frankie Ogg's son, the claimant [Mr McKenzie] became upset and distressed.

"He did not realise initially but he had begun to suffer from stress. This stress was exacerbated by the fact that the dealership had run into difficulties with Land Rover and there were rumours regarding the sale of the business."

Matters came to a head following the takeover in August last year, and Mr McKenzie was signed off sick. However, due to an "unusual" clause in his contract, he was liable to receive full pay while away from work.

But the firm wrote to him to say he would only be paid statutory sick pay, saying this had been confirmed as his entitlement after contacting his previous employer, and Mr McKenzie resigned and sued for unfair dismissal.

The tribunal heard that he had tried to get work in the meantime, but the job market was saturated with younger workers who had left the oil industry due to the downturn and who also possessed mechanical skills, leaving his employment prospects "bleak".

He had taken money from his pension early, and had also signed on to receive benefits for a time.

Mr Hendry's statement added: "It is my conclusion that the claimant was entitled to resign from his employment because of the respondent's actions in stating that they would not be honouring the terms of his written terms and conditions.

"I had no hesitation in finding the dismissal unfair. A clear written term was overridden without a clear reason for doing so and following virtually no investigation of the matter."

No-one at the Pentland Motor Company was available for comment.