11th July 2003
State Body Duchas Accused of Unfair Dismissal
Sinn Fein Councilor Joe Really today hit out at Duchas the Heritage Service over their blatantly unfair and discriminatory treatment of one of their contract workers Mr. Billy Thompson. Mr. Thompson was employed as a Tour Guide by Duchas on the Battle of the Boyne site from May 1st 2003 until Wednesday 8th July 2003, when Duchas summarily dismissed him without either the right to representation or the opportunity to present his side of the case.
Cllr Reilly said:
``On June 27th Billy Thompson attended a disciplinary hearing in Knowth House. At his request I accompanied him as his representative. After initial discussion the three Duchas representativess accepted me as Mr. Thompson representative. The meeting adjourned after fifteen minutes with the agreement that the allegations against Billy Thompson would be put in writing and that we would reconvene at a suitable date.
However when contacted to agree a date the management threatened Mr. Thompson with dismissal if he didn't agree to a date that neither suited Mr. Thompson or myself. According to the letter from Duchas the main issues in dispute were as follows:
- Mr. Thompson has not presented the ``Battle of the Boyne site to the public as directed and scripted, and in the manner proscribed by the Department''
- He failed to keep the guided tours to the allocated times.
- On one occasion during his guided tour members of the public stepped from behind a wooden barrier.
- That Mr. Thompson had failed to contact the emergency services in relation to a smoldering tree. This was despite the fact that the supervisor had given an instruction to another member of staff and not Mr. Thompson. Mr. Thompson did phone and had taken advise from a Chief Fire Officer (Note - On Sundays there are displays on the site of the type of guns used on the battlefield. A piece of wadding fired >from one of the guns had lodged itself in the bottom of a tree trunk and was smoldering during the day)
- That Mr. Thompsons ability to conduct tours and his vast knowledge of the history around the Battle of the Boyne was compromising to the site Supervisor.
- The same supervisor advised Mr. Thompson of his suspension from duties on the phone on his day off without any previous warnings or being advised as to the reason for the suspension. At the meeting on Wednesday, July 9th held in Knowth House and attended again by the same three members of Duchas I was informed that my role as representative was not being recognized as had been at the last meeting. I could only attend as a ``witness'' to the unfair and unprofessional treatment of Billy Thompson. This is a breach of natural justice and against normal Industrial Relations procedures.
Mr. Thompson felt he did not have the experience to defend himself in front of three members of Duchas. He and I insisted that that he was entitled to be represented by a person of his choice. Duchas then proceeded to dismiss Billy Thompson from his place of employment without affording him the opportunity to answer the allegations or be represented.
``In all my years as a public representative I haven't come across such a blatant disregard for a workers rights. The denial by Duchas of a persons right to choose a representative of their choice is a breach of their fundamental civil rights. Their actions fly in the face of natural justice and normal industrial relations. It is my firm belief that Duchas had already taken the decision to dismiss Billy Thompson and were prepared to break all the normal rules of justice and fair play to do so. By this action they have damaged Billy Thompson's reputation, good name and have placed a `black mark' against his employment record.
``Despite his bad experience with Duchas Billy Thompson intends to appeal this unjust decision to the internal appeal procedures within the company. He is also determined to use all the normal industrial relations avenues open to him to achieve justice and fair play.
``I will also be requesting that my colleagues in the Dáil to raise this important issue of justice with the relevent minister'' Ends
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