A NSW fire station captain demoted for using offensive language against his subordinates has been reinstated after an industrial relations commissioner found there were significant extenuating circumstances.
Long-time Teralba Fire Station captain Stuart Walsham had alleged his deputies had undermined him for years before he lashed out at three staff in January 2019.
In that incident, Mr Walsham used words to the effect of telling the workers they were "all f***wits and a bunch of c***s", "the three most hated people in Newcastle" and people who'd "f***ed the station", an external investigation concluded.
He'd also pointed at one firefighter and told the others "don't become a c***head like this bloke".
Fire and Rescue NSW immediately suspended Mr Walsham and eventually permanently demoted him in December 2019.
But the head of the NSW Industrial Commission this week ordered Mr Walsham's rank and position be restored by March 23.
Commissioner John Murphy also launched into a scathing assessment of FRNSW's own conduct.
While not doubting Mr Walsham's actions constituted misconduct, Mr Murphy said he didn't doubt there were "significant mitigating circumstances" that went some way to giving context to the "frustrating circumstances" in which the station captain found himself.
"(It) had been building up for a number of years due to the failure on the part of FRNSW management to take decisive and effective action to ensure that the two Deputy Captains ... complied with the lawful and reasonable directions of the appellant and displayed towards him the respect to which his rank as Captain was entitled," Mr Murphy said.
"I find it astonishing that, in opposing the appeal, FRNSW would attempt to defend the indefensible insubordination of the two Deputy Captains."
In light of Mr Walsham's "exemplary employment record over 40 years" and genuine remorse, permanent demotion was too harsh a penalty, Mr Murphy said.
He declined to make any order regarding Mr Walsham being paid between December 2019 and his reinstatement next month.
The commissioner said he expected FRNSW management will take "much more decisive and effective action" in future to ensure working relationships appropriately reflected the rank and seniority of each member and that "lawful and reasonable directions" of the captain were not ignored.