Bookmark and Share
07/12/2017

Tobacco Firm Discriminated Against Worker On Grounds Of Age

A tobacco firm discriminated against a 66-year-old man, who worked for Gallaher's factory in Ballymena for 27 years, by refusing to offer him the same redundancy as younger employees, a tribunal has found.

Bernard Barlow was excluded from the firm's enhanced severance package when its factory in Ballymena closed.

The Equality Commission supported Mr Barlow in taking his case.

Mr Barlow was employed as a machine worker at the factory owned by Japan Tobacco International Limited since October 1998. In May 2014, Mr Barlow notified the company that he wished to work after he had reached 65 in February 2016, however the company announced that it intended to close its Ballymena factory, a decision it confirmed in January 2015.

Following the decision, discussions took place between the management and Unite the union on the redundancy package. The package was based on a contractual redundancy scheme in place from 2009 which stated "entitlement… only applies up to age 65" with employees over 65 only receiving statutory redundancy pay. The scheme had not been amended following the removal by Government of the Default Retirement Age in October 2011.

The Tribunal noted that during the negotiation process the views of the workers over 65 years were not specifically canvassed by either the management side or trade union side, nor did management undertake an equality audit to ascertain whether the scheme might potentially discriminate against that group of workers.
News Image
A final severance package was agreed between Management and the Trade Union in February 2015. Following this, all employees were asked to sign a settlement agreement. Mr Barlow did not sign up as the sum he would receive was less than employees under 65 years. He believed this was discriminatory on the grounds of his age. An internal grievance was unsuccessful and he lodged a claim with the industrial tribunal on 12 May 2015.

The company did not dispute that the scheme adversely affected employees over 65, but contested the case on the ground of objective justification. 

In its decision, the tribunal accepted that the company was "genuine in its desire to see that the resources for enhanced redundancies payments would be spread fairly and equitably across the workforce, but the inescapable reality was that those employees who, like Mr Barlow, were over 65, were completely excluded from the benefits of the company's enhanced severance scheme."

In its decision, the tribunal found "no evidence that the company seriously considered any alternative methods which could have constituted a proportionate way of achieving its aims i.e. by tapering provisions or amending the net pay limitations... no transitional measures were considered, which could have mitigated the discriminatory effects of the scheme".

The Tribunal found that Mr Barlow suffered both direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of age and signalled its intention to issue a short supplementary decision to deal with compensation.

Mr Barlow said: "I had worked for Gallaher's for 27 years and hadn't had a sick day in over ten years. I considered myself to be a loyal and dedicated employee. It was hurtful and upsetting to be told after all those years of service that I was being treated differently than some colleagues simply because of my age.

"I found it offensive to be excluded from the company's redundancy scheme just because of my age and it is still distressing when I consider how I have been treated. I am grateful to the Equality Commission for its support throughout this difficult process."

(CD/JP)

Latest Northern Ireland News

11 December 2017
Yellow Weather Warning Extended Across NI
The yellow weather warning for snow and ice has been extended until 11am on Tuesday, 12 December. The Met Office advised the public to take extra care on pavements and untreated roads. Temperatures are expected to plummet to around -4 degrees in some areas and freezing fog patches are also possible.
11 December 2017
Car Catches Fire On A1
A car caught fire on the A1 on Monday, 11 December, after the driver left a blanket on the engine. The driver forgot to remove the blanket after placing it on the engine overnight. PSNI Road Policing officers attended the scene and there were no reports of any injuries.
11 December 2017
Man Arrested Over Aggravated Burglary Released
A man arrested in connection with an aggravated burglary in west Belfast has been released. Three men forced their way into a house in the Earlscourt Street area shortly before 9pm on Friday, 08 December. The suspects had a gun and made demands before running off, according to the PSNI.
11 December 2017
Union Delegation Travels To Montreal To Save Bombardier Jobs In NI
A delegation from Unite the Union have travelled to Montreal to save Bombardier jobs in Northern Ireland. The announcement was made ahead of the US department of commerce's final determination on whether to put tariffs of 300 per cent on Bombardier C-series passenger jets.
11 December 2017
Yellow Warning For Ice And Snow
A yellow warning for snow and ice is in place across Northern Ireland following what is said to have been the coldest night of the year. The Met Office reported that ice has formed on surfaces, with higher ground expected to see continued snowfall. A mixture of rain and sleet is expected across lower areas throughout the day.
11 December 2017
Man Injured In Shooting Incident In Garvagh
An investigation has launched following reports that shots were fired in the centre of Garvagh at around 3am on Sunday, 10 December. Police received a report in the early hours of Sunday morning that three shots had been fired in the Main Street area of the town. The PSNI believes that one of the shots injured a 46-year-old man in his lower leg.
11 December 2017
Witness Appeal After Stabbing Incident In Downpatrick
Police have issued an appeal for witnesses following an assault in the Ardilea Park area of Downpatrick in the early hours of Sunday morning, 10 December. A 22-year-old man was found with serious stab wounds at a house in the Killough Road area just after 4am. He was treated at the scene before being taken to hospital by ambulance.
11 December 2017
Consultation Launched On Organ Donation And Transplantation
A public consultation on a new approach to promote organ donation and transplantation has been launched by the Department of Health, marking Northern Ireland's Organ Donation Day, 11 December 2017.
11 December 2017
Other News In Brief
Call For Social Workers Pay To Be Increased Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has called for immediate plans to be put in place to raise the pay of social care workers.
08 December 2017
Brexit: PM Strikes Deal With EU
Prime Minister Theresa May has struck a deal with the EU to move Brexit talks onto the next stage. There will be no "hard border" between Northern Ireland and Ireland and leaders of the other EU nations will decide whether or not talks will move forward.