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Meat worker who lost job after injuring colleague with knife, wins unfair dismissal case

A worker at a major meat supplier who lost his job after injuring a colleague with a knife has won his case for unfair dismissal.

The man, who is not named, was awarded €2,500 after a Workplace Relations Commission adjudication officer found his dismissal last year was “disproportionate”.

He had worked in the meat plant processor’s boning hall since March 2003 and was dismissed in August last year.

The company employs over 250 staff and its meat products are sold to major supermarkets in Ireland, the UK and Europe.

His employer argued that he was dismissed due to a deliberate failure to follow fundamental procedures and behaviour likely to endanger his own safety or that of a colleague. The employer said this amounted to gross misconduct.

Last July, the boning hall manager got a Facebook message from a member of staff referred to as Mr L McG to say he had been injured at work the previous day.

He did not say exactly what had happened but indicated that the injury was caused by a fellow employee in the boning hall.

The worker who took the unfair dismissal case said he “had words” with Mr L McG.

He went to push him away but caused him an injury as he was holding his knife in his hand.

“I leaned into him and put up my elbow and forearm to push him away, but I had my knife in my hand and whatever way he jumped back his hand hit my knife,” he said.

He said the injured man sent him a message to say he was in hospital and had severed two tendons in his hand.

The worker said he didn’t report the accident as he knew “LMcG had drink in him”.

A relief supervisor said the injured man sent him a message to say “G stabbed my hand…accident. He went to punch me in the shoulder but had a knife in his hand. I went to block him, and he cut into me.”

The worker was suspended on full pay pending an investigation and later dismissed. In a letter, he was told he was dismissed for failure to report an accident and deliberately ignoring safety rules.

During the investigation, the injured man said his colleague had told him not to report the issue as Mr L McG “might not pass the mandatory drugs and alcohol test.”

The employer’s representative highlighted that employees were working with potentially lethal weapons and a zero tolerance policy was appropriate.

Evidence was provided showing boning knifes have 13cm blades.

Adjudication officer Emer O’Shea accepted Siptu’s contention that the sanction of dismissal was disproportionate and upheld the complaint of unfair dismissal.

However, she said the claimant contributed significantly to his own dismissal and she said she was limiting compensation to €2,500.

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