A manufacturer of vaccine production equipment supplying Pfizer and Janssen has been ordered to pay €22,000 for firing a technician while it was “pre-hemorrhagic” in the months leading up to the Covid-19 vaccination. .
Mr. The Workplace Relations Committee dismissed a complaint by quality technician Aidan McCarthy, who said he was unfairly fired by Abec Technologies Europe Ltd of Cork Road, Fermoy, Co Cork.
His lawyer, Byron Wade BL, argued that it was a “fake redundancy” by a company “run by remote control from the US”.
Evaluator Brian Dalton ruled redundancy was correct and the decisive goal – but the process was “no consultation” which could help him find an alternative role within the company .
Abec’s attorney, Peter McGuinness, told a hearing in February that Mr McCarthy had been selected for redundancy in a “measured and balanced manner” and that his role as a quality technician Incoming cargo inspection at Fermoy is “no longer necessary” because of the downturn in its stainless steel equipment manufacturing business during the early part of the pandemic.
Mr. Wade said his client was eligible for other work within the company and could have been transferred – but the company had not considered alternative roles for him.
Citing evidence, the company’s global head of quality Matt Fetherman said Abec manufactures two main product lines: stainless steel pressure vessels, piping and filtration systems for biopharmaceutical production. use live cells; and disposable polymer containers used for similar processes.
These are used to make “vaccines, insulin, any drug made from living cells,” he said. “It became clear that when the pandemic hit, we quickly found that things were slowing down. Even though we were a bio company, initially with Covid things started to come to a halt very quickly,” he told Mr. McGuinness.
The company is “raising cash,” he said.
Mr Wade, to the complainant, said that Abec had started hiring quality technicians “quite quickly” – with the ads posted in October 2020 after his client was deemed redundant in July. that year.
Mr Fetherman said that as Covid-19 vaccine orders increase towards the end of 2020, Abec must “scale up very quickly” to meet demand for the polymer bioreactor bags used to make them. .
Mr Wade told him other staff had been kept on 25pc pay cuts and reduced working hours and that this was a time of “uncertainty” in the business.
“There are other options available to your company. You could have fired this man,” he said.
“The directive to me was that I had to cut my head off so I really had no choice but to make other options,” he said.
“Reductions can include layoffs, especially in times of uncertainty. I want to tell you that it is the obvious thing to do,” the lawyer said.
“You are asking for something higher than my salary,” Mr. Fetherman said.
Mr. Fetherman said McCarthy had “no experience” in making polymer bioreactor bags in a clean room and it would take five or six months to get a staff member up to speed.
During the cross-examination, Byron Wade BL told Mr. Fetherman that his client had cleanroom experience and qualifications from previous roles.
“I don’t know about that,” he replied. “He didn’t work in that field during his time in Abec.”
“You didn’t look at his CV or resume when you made the decision I suppose,” the lawyer said.
“I don’t remember,” said Mr. Fetherman.
Mr McGuinness, representing Abec, said there was broad agreement between the parties on how to notify the excess and Abec accepted it as “less than it should have been”.
But he said the redundancy process was not aimed at Mr McCarthy, who he called “a highly valued, capable employee” and that ending his job was “perfectly appropriate in terms of redundancy”. .
However, Mr Wade told the Commission: “If they take a minute to look at it [Mr McCarthy’s CV] they’ll see he’s not the man to make redundant. They said he had no experience with us. That makes no difference. They had the information in his personnel file,” he said.
He said an uncertain situation in the early months of the pandemic was “tailor-made” for temporary layoffs and this should be considered, along with short working hours as employees. other has been provided.
“I’m not denying that the employer is having a problem, but let’s deal with it appropriately. That’s what my clients enjoy,” he said.
He claimed that Abec was being “run by remote control from the US” and that his customers had been distributed in “a panic, probably because the company’s president was holding his head on the manager’s neck.” physical”.
In his decision, arbitration officer Brian Dalton found both sides had made “compelling arguments” but he was pleased the redundancy was reasonable and was managed “objectively and fair”.
But he said even in these cases, failure to consult could lead to unfairness.
It is clear that the decision maker’s failure to recognize the experience and qualifications of the complainant may make him more suitable for other roles, he writes.
“That process, in turn, may have identified someone as redundant, objectively and fairly,” he added.
He said the process was “rigid” and “consultation-free” and did not take into account both Mr McCarthy’s previous relevant experience and his cleanroom qualifications.
With no alternatives considered and without consultation, the selection process “must be considered unfair” and so should the dismissal.
Mr. McCarthy has been out of work for a year and his loss is estimated at 37,000 euros.
Mr Dalton found he had made “considerable efforts” to minimize his losses but had not pursued the opportunity to be rehired at the plant and had received statutory overpayments and notices.
He ruled €22,000 as “fair and reasonable” compensation due to Mr McCarthy.
https://www.independent.ie/news/vaccine-manufacturing-equipment-supplier-ordered-to-pay-22000-to-technician-for-his-dismissal-41445267.html The supplier of vaccine production equipment ordered the technician to pay €22,000 because he was fired