A Dawn Meats worker claims fallen burgers have been put back into service and machines have not been cleaned as orders to gag the press are refused

Pressures from Covid-19 led to workers at a site of one of Europe’s largest meat processors picking up fallen burgers off the floor and putting them back on the line, while machines were left uncleaned on certain days, the Workplace Relations Commission has claimed.

The WRC told Dawn Meats Ltd on Wednesday that it does not have the power to order the press not to cover the claims after the company twice sought restrictions to prevent the publication of the allegations, which it said were “false and defamatory”.

Yesterday at the Waterford Courthouse, a former Dawn health and safety officer said in his testimony that burgers were “absolutely not” put back on conveyor belts after they fell on the floor.

The court heard an Employment Equality Act complaint brought by Abdulah Aljaber, a former general agent at Dawn Meats’ Co Waterford plant, who says the company discriminated against him on the basis of disability by failing to provide him with reasonable accommodation and terminating him his employment after a back injury.

The company denies the allegations.

“At that time, Corona put a lot of pressure on the work. The work was so much pressure [that] If a procedure was neglected, covering meat, etc., you would just leave it that way,” Mr Aljaber said in his testimony, speaking through an Arabic interpreter.

“Not even the machines were really cleaned. That tells you that there was so much pressure on some days [that] Machines were not washed or cleaned,” he added.

“If the meat fell off, even in front of the manager, you would pick it up and put it back,” he said.

Attorney Gerard Cullen asked his client where the meat fell, and Mr Aljaber replied: “On the floor.”

“Frequently?” asked the lawyer.

“Yes,” said the complainant.

He said one location in the factory’s burger line was supposed to be staffed by four workers, but just before Christmas 2020 the number was down to two due to absences due to illness or Covid-19.

“Sometimes when the line is full, the burgers end up on the floor,” he said.

“How often,” said Mr. Cullen.

“Too often,” said Mr. Aljaber.

Mr Cullen then told his client that Dawn Meats “was trying to get you to accept payment for your personal injury”.

Robin McKenna, manager of industrial relations at Ibec, who appeared for the company, contradicted this questioning.

“It was without prejudice,” he said.

“It’s not without prejudice. Your client broke the prejudice rule,” said Mr. Cullen.

Mr Cullen said those discussions had expanded to Mr Aljaber’s question about “not reporting overwork practices, burgers falling on the floor”.

“[I] Accept that it’s all in the documentation,” Ms Cunningham said.

Mr McKenna said Mr Cullen was “clearly great”, adding: “Here’s a reporter”.

“Dawn Meats’ position is that the complainant’s previous references to proprietary disclosures are false and defamatory, and we have already brought this to the attention of his counsel,” Mr McKenna said.

“We demand that no allegations made today be made public,” he said.

After a short pause, the sentencing officer, Gaye Cunningham, said: “In this case we will proceed on the basis that this is an open hearing. I can see nowhere in the legislation where I would have authority to direct that there should be no public disclosure of matters.”

Former Health and Safety Commissioner Richie Phelan said in his testimony that burgers were “absolutely not” put back on conveyor belts after they fell on the floor.

“Everyone is aware that the product we manufacture is for human consumption,” he said, adding that there were designated red trays in the area where Mr Aljaber worked, which were transported externally for disposal.

“Are there any consequences for an employee if they drop burgers?” Mr. McKenna asked him.

“No, absolutely not – human error is human error. There are a lot of burgers coming down the line, maybe they fell off the conveyor. The right decision is to put it in the red bowl,” he said.

Mr Phelan said company policy is that a worker who put a burger off the floor back onto the conveyor would be disciplined.

Mr. Cullen interrogated the company’s witness and asked how many workers had been fined.

“None,” said the witness, adding, “If they were, they were not seen.”

“If there was never a trial, how did you know?” asked the attorney.

“It’s the hygiene regulations,” said the witness.

“Where is it written down?” asked Mr. Cullen.

“It’s not in writing,” Mr. Phelan replied.

“They’re also pretty confident that it never happened,” the attorney said.

“Not that I know of,” said the witness.

“What about the cleaning? My client said machines are routinely left uncleaned over the weekend,” said Mr. Cullen.

“That is not true. They are cleaned every day after each production run,” Mr. Phelan replied, adding that during the pandemic the company has put in place an “contingency plan” to bring in contract cleaners should staff shortages affect the cleaning schedule.

The complainant said his back started causing him pain as early as November 2020 as a result of lifting and carrying 25kg sacks of meat in “sub-zero temperatures” while there was “pressure” on the line. He said he complained verbally to the floor manager about it in December.

“That is factually incorrect,” Mr Phelan said of the complainant’s allegations when presented to him by Mr McKenna.

He added that employees in the company’s manual handling training course were instructed to “lift a load of that size with two people”.

“When there’s a robbery, there’s no need to hold up weights,” he said.

He added that there were no weights over 25 kg in the area of ​​the facility where the complainant worked.

Mr Aljaber said when he was late for work on January 5, 2021, he was picked up by Mr Phelan and sent home.

An email written by Mr Phelan and opened to the court by Mr Cullen said: “I met Abdulah – he told me he injured his back at home.”

Mr Phelan explained in the email that Mr Aljaber had “no certificate of fitness to work” and that the complainant would not be allowed to return to work without management approval.

Mr Aljaber said he did not injure his back that day and did not say he “slid down the stairs”.

Mr Phelan said in his affidavit that the complainant told him so.

He said it was the “perfect opportunity” for the complainant to address previous work-related injuries, but he had not done so.

The arbitral tribunal was informed that Mr. Aljaber had worked for the company for two and a half months before taking sick leave for over six months before his employment was terminated.

Former Dawn Meats human resources officer Nicola O’Gorman said she held a series of meetings with the complainant up until July 2021, when he “told me he was going to have an operation, that he would have to wait at least two or two 3 years”.

“He couldn’t give me a date to return to work because of Covid,” Ms O’Gorman said.

Mr Aljaber’s doctor had requested “light duties” for the complainant in a medical report to the company, but Ms O’Gorman indicated that such duties were not available to employees in Mr Aljaber’s role.

She gave details of the process the firm followed after Mr Aljaber took sick leave in January 2021.

“In all of my meetings, he never mentioned being injured in a work-related incident,” she said.

Mr McKenna explained to the witness that at the time of a meeting in July 2021 to discuss Mr Aljaber’s “long-term absence”, the employee had been absent for over six months after having worked for the company for two and a half months.

“Why was Mr. Aljaber’s job terminated?” Mr. McKenna asked the witness.

“Mr Aljaber informed me he would need surgery, that he would have to wait at least 2-3 years… he couldn’t give me a date to return to work because of Covid,” Ms O Gorman said.

“I put it to you [that] They just wanted to get rid of him,” said Mr. Cullen, interrogating Ms. O’Gorman.

“We couldn’t do easy work for Mr. Aljaber, so he had to get sick. There is no role there in his position for light duties,” the witness said.

“Either you’re fit or you’re not,” was the company policy for general agents.

She added that Mr Aljaber “failed his probationary period and attendance”.

Before the case was closed, Dawn Meats renewed its request for reporting restrictions on the matter.

Mr. McKenna said his side was not advised that Mr. Cullen was making the proprietary disclosure claims and that they were “blinded” by them.

This was denied by Mr. Cullen.

The referee said she had clarified her position on the entry restriction request and adjourned the matter to a date to be determined by the WRC.

https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/news/courts/dawn-meats-worker-alleges-fallen-burgers-put-back-on-line-and-machines-not-cleaned-as-press-gagging-order-is-refused-42188381.html A Dawn Meats worker claims fallen burgers have been put back into service and machines have not been cleaned as orders to gag the press are refused

Fry Electronics Team

Fry Electronics.com is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@fry-electronics.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button