The employees in this case were employed as mushroom pickers.
In January 2006 the employees left their workplace due to disputes affecting their work practices. They later called to their local SIPTU office.
They presented themselves for work the next day to find that they had already been replaced. Later the employer again said to the union representative that they were “nothing to do with me now”.
The employer later denied that the employees had been dismissed, indicating thay they had walked out and therefore had resigned. The employer further said they had not been dismissed because they had joined a trade union.
The employees brought a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.
Initially, the employer denied that the employees were in fact employees, but self-employed contractors. This was rejected by the Tribunal.
The Tribunal determined that the employee’s walk out was not a resignation.
Furthermore, the Tribunal determined that the employees were unfairly dismissed because they had joined a trade union.
The dismissals were held to be blatantly unfair due to the employees being non-nationals with limited English and having being brought to Ireland specifically to pick mushrooms.
The Tribunal awarded the maximum award of 2 years salary, €26000, in addition to varying amounts of compensation for lack of notice and annual leave/holiday pay to the 13 employees that proceeded with their claims. The total award was €355,850.
This is one of the highest awards made by the Employment Appeals Tribunal, sending a message that exploitation of workers will not be tolerated.
Case: 17 Complainants v Eamonn Murray T/a Kilnaleck Mushrooms & Others, Employment Appeals Tribunal