Tobacco worker (66) discriminated against in redundancy scheme

Bernard Barlow worked at Gallaher’s for 27 years but was too old for payoff package

The Gallaher’s tobacco factory in Ballymena was closed down by its Japanese owner JTI in October. Photograph: Pacemaker

The Gallaher’s tobacco factory in Ballymena was closed down by its Japanese owner JTI in October. Photograph: Pacemaker

 

A 66-year-old man who had worked at the former Gallaher’s tobacco factory in Ballymena for 27 years, and had not taken a day off sick in more than 10 years, was discriminated against because of his age by the company after it decided to close the plant, an industrial tribunal has ruled.

Bernard Barlow had been a machine worker at the factory, owned by Japan Tobacco International (JTI), since 1998. In May 2014 had told his employers that he wanted to continue working after he reached the age of 65 in February 2016.

But before Mr Barlow could fulfil this ambition, JTI confirmed in January 2015 that it would close the plant by 2017 with the loss of 800 jobs.

Negotiations on a redundancy package subsequently took place between unions and management, but JTI only offered an enhanced severance package to workers up to the age of 65.

Mr Barlow did not sign up to the final severance package because he would have got less than his younger workmates.

He ultimately took a case against his former employer which was supported by the North’s Equality Commission.

Resources

The Industrial Tribunal ruled in his favour and said while JTI was “genuine in its desire to see that the resources for enhanced redundancies payments would be spread fairly and equitably across the workforce, 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.”

The Tribunal found that Mr Barlow suffered both direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of age.

After the decision Mr Barlow said: “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.”