A Limerick-based transport firm has been ordered to pay €109,040 to 11 drivers and helpers for their mass unfair dismissal concerning alleged “unscheduled and undocumented” alcohol deliveries to a Dublin pub.
At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), adjudicator Andrew Heavey ordered Shannon Transport & Warehouse Company, trading as STL Logistics, to pay the 11 former employees the aggregate €109,040.
In his findings, Mr Heavey found that this was not a situation where a member of staff deserves summary dismissal for gross misconduct, especially where no loss to the company was identified.
In the cases, Mr Heavey has ordered compensation payouts ranging from €21,000 to €2,320. In the 11 separate rulings, Mr Heavey ordered the company to pay €21,000 to Lukasz Tymicki, €15,000 to Darren Fallon, €15,000 to Ben Murphy, €14,000 to Anthony O’Reilly, €11,000 to Stanislav Gradinaru, €8,000 to Sean F Kelly, €8,000 to John Gray, €6,500 to Stephen Nelson, €5,500 to William Dorney, €2,720 to Krzysztof Franczak and €2,320 to Mark Bissett.
Mr Heavey also found that the workers’ actions did not amount to gross misconduct, especially where none of the practices in question were included in the employer’s disciplinary procedures and are still not included more than three years after the dismissal.
He also said it should be pointed out that despite the suggestion of theft and loss throughout the complaints, the employer has confirmed that everything balanced – deliveries and payments to all clients with no complaints made.
He found the actions of the company in dismissing the workers was not within the range of reasonable responses of a reasonable employer.
In total, the firm dismissed 15 drivers and helpers and 13 brought complaints to the WRC alleging unfair dismissal with 11 of those legally represented and a further two were represented by their trade union.
The employer said it became aware of unscheduled and undocumented deliveries to the Bridge Tavern in Dublin between January and March 2019.
The firm stated that the background to the deliveries was that some pubs in the locality were claiming that they were subject to delays in getting deliveries whereas the Bridge Tavern was getting deliveries “every other day.”
Surveillance was placed on the premises by Diageo security and the findings of the surveillance was passed on to the employer for consideration and for management to address the matter.
All 15 staff identified making the deliveries to the Bridge Tavern stated that if the deliveries were made off schedule and undocumented, it was due to a swap and was done following a request from another pub on the route.
This was not accepted as credible by the firm as it said that as no other pub among 70 pubs questioned confirmed a swap arrangement.
Counsel for the complainants, David Byrnes BL (instructed by Setanta Solicitors), told the WRC hearing that no admissible evidence had been put forward by the employer in relation to the assertion that they were observed on 20 occasions delivering a total of 31 kegs to the Bridge Tavern over the three-month period in question and that this was theft resulting in loss and damage to the company.
Mr Byrnes said the reasons for the deliveries, if they did indeed take place, on the dates and by the staff member in question was explained by each complainant in evidence.
Mr Byrnes said in respect of the 70 statements of the pubs in question, he did not accept these documents as admissible as neither the author of the statements nor the people who allegedly made the statements were available to verify the documents as authentic.
He argued that the employer's submissions relating to the deliveries does not meet the same standard of proof as the direct evidence provided by the complainants.
In his findings, Mr Heavey stated in evidence, the complaints stated that swaps take place and have done ever since they were employed at the Company and continue to take place.
Mr Heavey said: “In my view and having considered the information obtained from both sides at the adjudication hearings it is clear that swaps do take place.”
Mr Heavey said the employer confirmed the issue of swaps is not currently included in its procedures as something that is prohibited nor is the issue of undocumented and unscheduled deliveries included in procedures as an example of gross misconduct that may lead to summary dismissal.