A practice of undocumented Guinness keg deliveries at the request of publicans was commonplace, and continued after 15 of the delivery truck drivers were sacked en masse, their colleagues have stated in a petition.
Eleven of the dismissed workers have lodged complaints with the Workplace Relations Commission under the Unfair Dismissals Act against Shannon Warehousing and Transport Ltd, trading as STL Logistics, which is the delivery subcontractor for Guinness brewer Diageo in Dublin.
The mass sacking followed covert surveillance by Diageo security officers at a pub in Dublin’s northeast inner city. It led STL to accuse the men of making “unscheduled and undocumented deliveries of Diageo product” between December 2018 and February 2019.
HR consultant Brendan McGrath, who appeared for STL Logistics, said 20 such deliveries to the same pub were seen during the operation and some 70 delivery customers were interviewed, none of which “justified or clarified why Guinness trucks were stopping at that pub”, he said.
The comments came in the sixth in the series of claims, that of Lucan man Stanislav Gradinaru.
Mr McGrath said Mr Gradinaru and a colleague dropped off a single keg on February 15th, 2019 — the same day two other STL Logistics keg lorries had made unscheduled deliveries to the same location.
Mr Gradinaru told his bosses it was done at the request of a different pub on the northside of the capital — where he said a barman told the Diageo investigators that he “did ask the Guinness crew to drop two Heineken kegs” as the competitor’s delivery staff had been “difficult and unhelpful” when they were asked.
But Mr McGrath said the pub’s owner and the cellar man both denied any such arrangement and said there had been no swap arrangement with the pub under surveillance.
Mr Gradinaru “accepted that he did an unscheduled drop but claims he did it on the instruction of another pub”, Mr McGrath said.
“Stanislav strenuously and robustly denies the allegations against him,” his barrister David Byrnes said.
He said the adjudicating officer ought not to interpret any admission Mr Gradinaru had made as meaning that his client accepts he was “in breach of any employment obligation or any other obligation”, Mr Byrnes said.
In his evidence, Mr Gradinaru said he had engaged in the practice of moving kegs from pub to pub at the request of publicans on his routes from his “first days” in the job in 2008, when the drivers were still directly employed by Diageo, adding that he understood it to be a long-standing practice.
Most of his training on the job came from senior drivers and helpers, who told him his role was to “go [the] extra mile for the customers because you’re the face of the company”.
He said he delivered a keg to the pub under surveillance at the request of a bar manager at a named pub in north Dublin on February 15th, which he later said was a 10-minute drive away.
Mr Byrnes said a petition, which was submitted in evidence to the hearing, was signed by 18 staff and agency workers between August and October 2019. In the petition, the workers stated that they too had carried out unscheduled and undocumented keg drops, had not been sanctioned for doing it or told to stop, and that the practice continued at the company, Mr Byrnes submitted.
“Inside of the company nobody told them to stop doing it,” Mr Gradinaru said.
“At busy times when pubs [are] running low they borrow kegs between places where they have friends or know the manager or whatever. They ask us to drop them back because it’s not a problem for us if we’re not busy,” he said.
Mr McCarthy, for STL Logistics, asked why two pubs close to seven kilometres apart by road would be engaged in a swap arrangement.
“The pub next door is your competition. You’d not have a good relationship with them,” Mr Gradinaru replied. He added that publicans were not inclined to call the office because they would be charged for an extra delivery.
Adjudicating officer Andrew Heavey told Mr Gradinaru his evidence had been “clear and complete” and thanked him for it.
Mr Heavey has said he intends to issue a decision in all 11 cases together towards the end of this year.