A Co Cavan pig farmer has been ordered to pay €30,000 to a pig stockman in a dispute over the treatment of a group of piglets.
The Labour Court has ordered Pottle Pig Farm to pay €30,000 to Valery Panasov after finding that there were no grounds for his dismissal.
An adjudication officer at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) had earlier awarded Mr Panasov €10,000 after finding that his dismissal was unfair as it was procedurally flawed.
Mr Panasov — who had worked for Pottle Pig Farm since 2009 — appealed the amount to the Labour Court. It has now been tripled.
Pottle Pig Farm of Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan also appealed the adjudication officer’s ruling.
However, the Labour Court found that the manner in which the decision was made to dismiss Mr Panasov was devoid of any form of procedural fairness and offended against the principles of natural justice to which he was entitled.
The Labour Court also found that no investigation or inquiry was carried out and Pottle Pig Farm came to a conclusion that Mr Panasov was guilty of a serious offence without giving him an opportunity to defend himself and/or to respond to the allegations made.
The court found that Mr Panasov was not allowed any representation and was given no right to appeal and was simply told over the phone that his employment was terminated.
Owner of the pig farm, Tommy Brady said that Mr Panasov was sacked after finding that on November 19, 2015 that the piglets had not been fed, which was disputed by Mr Panasov in evidence.
Mr Brady told the court that it was obvious from the piglets’ distressed state that they had not been fed for at least 20 hours. He said the feeding hoppers were empty. As these were newly weaned pigs, it was critical for their wellbeing that they should not be allowed to go hungry.
Mr Brady photographed the scene, proceeded to feed them and then photographed the piglets who at this stage were scrambling all over the hopper for their food, which he said was not the norm.
Mr Brady said that he showed the photos to his brother, Brian and they jointly made the decision to sack Mr Panasov for gross misconduct.
When questioned as to why Mr Panasov was not given an opportunity to defend himself, Brian Brady said that “he hadn’t a leg to stand on, I made the decision, that was it”.
Brian Brady said that later that day, Mr Panasov telephoned him looking for his fulltime hours back. However he told him “you did not feed the pigs yesterday”, “it was all over” and “you are finished”.
Mr Brady accepted that Mr Panasov was not told he could appeal the decision. He said that he would “close down the operation rather than take him back”.
Brian Brady admitted that there was no evidence to prove that Mr Panasov had neglected the piglets apart from his and his brother’s vast experience in the area.
In evidence, Mr Panasov said that on November 18, 2015, he fed all pigs. He fed them again at around 2.00pm and gave them sufficient feed to last them until the following morning.
Mr Panasov said in his 15 years’ of pig experience, there was nothing unusual in piglets scrambling over one another to get to food.
The court found that Mr Panasov has suffered considerable financial loss as a result of the wrong he has suffered and made the award of €30,000.
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