Workers pay price of the Troubles

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The Independent Online
Two recent cases show the effect of paramilitary violence on workers, writes David McKittrick. In the first a Co Londonderry firm, Foyle Meats Ltd, settled with a Catholic former employee for £10,000.

He alleged that another worker had engaged in sectarian behaviour towards him. The company said the allegations had been investigated and were unfounded. Later, a colleague was murdered in the factory car park and the claimant was kidnapped by an armed paramilitary gang, assaulted and questioned about the incident. As a result he took certified sick leave, but was sacked after six weeks. The settlement was agreed for the injury to his feelings, with the company agreeing to review its policies on equal opportunities.

In the second case the tribunal awarded a Catholic man £12,000 against Croft Inns Ltd for unlawful discrimination.

The applicant worked in a bar in a loyalist area where the clientele was Protestant. The tribunal reported: "A message was passed that he was not to be there next week and that the message came from `higher authority.' It was delivered to management.

"The applicant took it very seriously, as he was entitled to do. He believed that this life was at risk. Despite the fact that the threat was delivered by a regular customer, Croft Inns did absolutely nothing. Apart from a telephone call from his manager, no one even talked to the applicant about this threat."

The applicant was offered the choice of staying at that bar or leaving the company. The Tribunal ruled that this amounted to constructive dismissal. It said: "It is one thing to be threatened out of your employment because of your religious belief. It isanother thereafter to be treated with total indifference by your employer. It appears to us that the company simply washed their hands of the problem."The tribunal described as amazing the company's suggestion that the applicant had "over-reacted".

The Fair Employment Commission said employers could not ignore threats, and should take all reasonable measures to safeguard workers.