Bruised face of former manager shown in WRC case on alleged racism

Indian man says ‘culture of racism’ led to his demotion following altercation with shoplifter

A photo of the badly bruised face of a former security manager, taken following an altercation with a shoplifter in August 2020, was displayed at the Workplace Relations Commission on Thursday.

Nicola Coleman of the workers’ rights centre in Siptu held up the photo of Sayed Baqur-Hussain, who is bringing a complaint under the Employment Equality Act, alleging that a “culture of racism” at One Complete Solutions Ltd (OCS) was behind his demotion following the incident.

Mr Baqur-Hussain, an Indian national, admits punching the man who had attempted to steal meat from a Tesco store on Jervis Street, Dublin but says it was in self-defence. The man had punched an OCS colleague and racially abused both men. The incident escalated and Mr Baqur-Hussain, then a contracts manager, sustained injuries requiring his referral to Beaumont Hospital.

The commission has heard allegations that OSC director of security Lorraine O’Neill had been racially abusive to other non-Irish security managers, telling them they were “lazy”, in the “wrong” place and that OSC was an “Irish company ... not a circus”.


Ms O’Neill strenuously denied the allegations on Thursday, describing them as “really disappointing”. She outlined the company’s “risk assessment document”, which sets out how security personnel should respond to incidents including assault, violence, threatening and antisocial behaviour and serious physical injury to themselves and/or the public.

Asked by solicitor Catriona McKeating for IBEC, appearing for OCS, whether these assaults could include racial verbal assaults, she said: “Yes”.

Asked by adjudicator Máire Mulcahy to point out where in the policy it said that, she said: “It doesn’t say it in that”.

Ms Coleman asked, given that a “significant” number of OCS employees were non-Irish and in light of the “increase in racist violence in Ireland”, why the risk-assessment policy did not specifically reference handling racist abuse. Ms O’Neill said it was because it was written in 2021.

“There was no racism in Ireland in 2021? There was no risk of staff being exposed to racist abuse in 2021?” asked Ms Coleman.

“I can’t answer that question,” said Ms O’Neill.

“As someone who works for an organisation that employs nationalities from all over the world ... you didn’t include a risk [of the] hazard of racism.”

“She’s given evidence today that covers it,” said Ms McKeating.

Ms O’Neill agreed the policy said “reasonable force” can “only be attributed by security personnel in conflict situations” as a last resort and security personnel could “physically engage with persons they feel may cause them or others harm”.

She said managers reporting to her were responsible for ensuring policies were distributed to teams, that additional “site-specific” measures were implemented at higher-risk sites, and that personnel were properly trained.

“Did the security personnel ... that day, with the shoplifters who were violent and threatening to your staff, had they all been in receipt of that training?” asked Ms Coleman.

“I can’t answer that ... I don’t know,” said Ms O’Neill.

“Did [local manager] report the training to you?,” asked Ms Coleman.

“I’ve answered your question.”

Asked whether there had been checks to ensure compliance with training requirements, she said: “Ms Coleman, as divisional head I am responsible for 700 employees. Each manager that reports into myself could have many frontline operatives. They are responsible for training ... We are a very large organisation who have lots of policies, procedures and training for all our employees.”

“Is what you are saying there is that you are very busy and you didn’t have the time? I am not sure what that answer means,” said Ms Coleman.

“That is not what I said. What I said is there is managers that are responsible for that function ... It is not my function.”

The commission heard the proportion of non-Irish people in senior positions at OCS had allegedly fallen from more than half to less than a fifth between 2021 and 2023. In her submission Ms Coleman said among “contract managers and other security division managers”, in 2021 there were 52 per cent non-Irish and 48 per cent Irish, of which 17 per cent were Asian or African and in 2023, 82 per cent were Irish and just 18 per cent were non-Irish and none was Asian or African.

Head of human resources Natalie McGrath said she had examined the figures for contract managers, which showed in 2021 there had been five Irish (62 per cent) and three non-Irish (38 per cent). In 2023, she continued, there were eight Irish (72 per cent) and three non-Irish (28 per cent).

The hearing continues.

  • See our new project Common Ground, Evolving Islands: Ireland & Britain
  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times