Case Number: ADJ-00000173. Workplace Relations Commission

CourtWorkplace Relations Commission
Docket NumberADJ-00000173
Date11 March 2016
PartiesQuarry employee v Quarry owner

In accordance with Section 41(4) of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 and Section 8(1B) of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977 following the referral of the complaint(s)/dispute(s) to me by the Director General, I inquired into the complaint(s)/dispute(s) and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the complaint(s)/dispute(s).

Complainant’s Submission and Presentation:

The Complainant commenced working for the Respondent in May 2001. He worked in several different roles over the duration of his employment primarily as a lorry driver and a machine driver.

He had no issues with the Respondent until 2011. In 2011, the Complainant had a health and safety complaint with the Respondent regarding the provision of protective clothing and footwear. He was absent from the workplace for some time on stress leave. At that time, the Complainant wrote to the Respondent setting out the grounds for his grievance and stress leave.

The Complainant gave evidence that between 2011 and his dismissal on the 30th of September 2015 there was tension between him and the Respondent Company “all of the time”. He felt there was a “change in attitude” in the company towards him. He felt his work was being undermined.

The Complainant gave evidence that he believed that the main machine he was working on which was a Chieftain Powerscreen three way split machine to sort gravel into four products, was not safe to use. He felt that work was needed to be done on the machine to make it “safe”. He gave evidence that there was no emergency stop on the machine and certain guards required to stop him and other staff falling into the machine was missing from the machine.

The Complainant claimed that he raised these issues with the Respondent and in particular in July 2015. At the time he was told by the Respondent that the machine was “fine for use”. He claimed that he verbally informed the Respondent of his issues with the machine on three to four different occasions. The Complainant gave evidence that on each occasion he was told the machine was fine and that he should continue to use the machine.

The Complainant decided to refuse to work on the machine. Following same, “things came to a head” and there was a verbal altercation between him and management of the Respondent.

On the 10th of July 2015 the Complainant was approached by one of the directors of the Respondent in the car park of the Respondents office. The Complainant was going on annual leave that evening for the following 10 days. This was not a scheduled meeting. The Complainant gave evidence that had no knowledge of the meeting and it came as a surprise to him. Evidence was given that the Complainant was told that he was being given a verbal warning and that the Respondent was “not happy with his work”. He was handed the sealed envelope and told to read the letter. No further discussions took place. Evidence was given during the hearing that the sealed envelope contained only a copy of the grievance procedure of the Respondent.

Following his annual leave, the Complainant returned to work and continued in his duties as he had done prior to the 10th of July 2015. As before, he continued not to use the screener, a position he had adopted and believed the Respondent had accepted.

On the 20th of August 2015 there was a further verbal altercation between the parties. The Complainant gave evidence that it was in connection with the screener machine and his failure to use the machine.

On the 30th of September 2015, one of the Respondent directors called him into the Respondents office from the car park. Again this was not a scheduled meeting. The Complainant attended the meeting alone. In the office were two directors of the Respondent Company. The Complainant gave evidence that they asked him “what was wrong” and “why was he not using the machine”.

The Complainant explained his reasoning behind his failure to use the screener machine was for safety reasons. The meeting was reasonably cordial and there was an apology for the verbal altercation the month earlier. However the meeting concluded with one of the director stating that if the Complainant was not going to use the machine, “I have no job for you”.

On hearing this, the Complainant requested “Is that the case that there is no job for me here tomorrow?” He understood that his employment was being terminated there and then. In response, the Complainant requested his P45. He was told that it would have to be provided by the Respondent’s secretary.

The meeting ended and the complainant picked up his P45 on the 12th of October 2015.

Respondent’s Submission and Presentation:

The Respondent gave evidence that they had no issue with the Complainant for the previous fourteen years of employment with them. In 2011 there was a request for safety protective gear and this was provided by the company. The company employs twelve employees over three different sites. The Complainant worked primarily in one site. His job was always to screen sand. The director for the Respondent gave evidence that the complainant had used the same machine once he was assigned to it namely a Chieftain Power screen three way split machine. The machine is a twenty year old machine and was purchased in Northern Ireland. It has been repaired and upgraded over the years by their “in house” mechanic and fitter. However there is no record of this.

The director gave evidence that there were safety guards on the machine and there was an emergency stop.

The director gave evidence that the Respondent Company was aware that the Complainant had refused to work on a particular machine. When the queried the Complainant why he refused to work on the screener machine, the answer they were given was that “he just didn’t want to”. They were told “No, I just don’t want to do it anymore” and they were directed to assign another member of staff for that work.

The director gave evidence that a verbal warning was given to the Complainant on the 10th of July 2015. There was no notification in writing of the meeting and the verbal warning wasn’t confirmed in writing. Evidence was given that the Respondent had...

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