Sue Ryder Foundation ordered to pay shop steward €14,000 for unfair dismissal

Eileen Walsh, a night supervisor, claims she was unfairly selected for redundancy

A charity accused of an “anti-union bias” has been ordered to pay nearly €14,000 for the unfair dismissal of a shop steward.

Eileen Walsh, a night supervisor, claims she was unfairly selected for redundancy in October 2020 by the Sue Ryder Foundation (Ireland) CLG in a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission under Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act.

In a ruling published on Tuesday, WRC adjudication officer Conor Stoke upheld the complaint, saying the foundation had not acted fairly or reasonably in its consideration of the redundancy.

Mr Stoke said that although he was not satisfied the complainant’s activities as shop steward accounted for her selection for redundancy, trade union membership had been a factor.

Siptu organiser Ger Malone, for the complainant, submitted that there had been no advance consultation about the redundancy, and that Ms Walsh’s suggestions were “ignored, not considered, and not acted upon”.

The Sue Ryder Foundation, represented by solicitor Mary Vaughan, denied Ms Walsh had been unfairly dismissed. She said she had been made redundant because of restructuring, technological changes and a change in financial circumstances as the charity was cutting spending to fund future investment.

Ms Walsh was one of three unionised night supervisors let go from the charity at the same time. However, she said in her submission that the only colleague retained on the night shift was non-union.

The company denied any anti-union bias and said the complainant’s colleague was kept on primarily because they were involved in maintenance work.

In the ruling, Mr Stoke found that the firm had not looked beyond those three supervisors for potential redundancies or properly explore other options put forward by Siptu, including seeking voluntary redundancy.

“I am not satisfied that the complainant’s activities as shop steward account for her selection for redundancy, as two other individuals were also chosen for redundancy,” he wrote.

“I do not consider that conduct of the respondent in its consideration of the redundancies was fair and reasonable. Accordingly, I find that the respondents approach amounts to unfair selection for redundancy and as such the complainant was unfairly dismissed,” he wrote.

He said Ms Walsh had found a new job in August last year but left as she “could see that another lockdown was on the way” and had therefore “deprived herself of an income”.

He said for that reason he would cap the compensation payment for loss of earnings at 45 weeks’ salary at €434.84 a week.

He ordered the charity pay a sum of €19,567, making a deduction of €5,644 for her redundancy payment, for a net compensation payment of €13,923.