Vaccine equipment maker pays €22,000 over dismissal of technician

Workplace Relations Commission upholds complaint as process ‘devoid of consultation’

A maker of vaccine manufacturing equipment supplying leading vaccine producers Pfizer and Janssen has been ordered to pay €22,000 for the dismissal of a technician while it was "haemorrhaging cash" in the months before the Covid-19 inoculation drive.

The Workplace Relations Commission has upheld a complaint by quality technician Aidan McCarthy, who said he was unfairly dismissed by Abec Technologies Europe Ltd of the Cork Road, Fermoy, Co Cork.

His barrister, Byron Wade, had argued it was a “sham redundancy” by a company “run by remote control from America”.

Adjudicating officer Brian Dalton ruled the redundancy was genuine and the decision objective – but that the process was “devoid of consultation” which could have found him an alternative role in the company.


Abec’s solicitor, Peter McGuinness, told a hearing in February that Mr McCarthy was selected for redundancy in a “measured and balanced way” and that his role as a quality technician inspecting incoming goods in Fermoy was “no longer required” because of a downturn in its stainless steel equipment manufacturing business early in the pandemic.

Alternative roles

Mr Wade said his client was well-qualified for other work in the company and could have been transferred – but the company failed to consider alternative roles for him.

Giving evidence, the company’s global director of quality, Matt Fetherman, said Abec makes two main product lines: stainless steel pressure vessels, piping and filtration systems for biopharmaceutical production using live cells; and disposable polymer containers used for similar processes.

These are used to make “vaccines, insulin, any kind of medicine that’s made from a live cell”, he said. “Obviously when the pandemic hit we quickly saw that things were slowing down. Even though we’re a biopharma company, initially with Covid things started to come to a halt very quickly,” he told Mr McGuinness.

He said the company was “haemorrhaging cash”.

In his decision, Mr Dalton found both parties had made “compelling arguments” but that he was satisfied the redundancy was justified and had been managed “objectively and fairly”.

‘Unfair’ dismissal

But he said even in these circumstances, the failure to consult could give rise to unfairness. “It is clear on the evidence that the decision-maker was not aware of the complainant’s experience and qualifications that may have made him more than suitable for other roles,” he wrote.

“That process in turn may have identified someone else to be made redundant, objectively and fairly,” he added.

He said the process had been “rigid” and “devoid of consultation” and failed to take into account both Mr McCarthy’s previous relevant experience and his clean room qualifications.

With no alternatives considered and no consultation, the selection process “must be deemed to be unfair” and therefore, so was the dismissal.

Mr McCarthy had been out of work for a year and estimated his losses at €37,000.

Mr Dalton found he had made “significant efforts” to mitigate his losses but had not pursued an opportunity to be rehired at the plant and had received the correct statutory redundancy and notice pay.

He ruled €22,000 was the “just and equitable” compensation due to Mr McCarthy.