A 37-year old woman has revealed how she was left ‘a broken woman' after suffering a miscarriage and being summarily sacked days later by her employer while on sick leave two years ago.
Aneta Petrova from Bulgaria was commenting today on a Labour Court ruling yesterday that she was unfairly dismissed from Western Brand Group Ltd's chicken processing plant at Ballyhaunis in Co Mayo.
The company have been ordered to pay her €17,000.
Ms Petrova said that she cried down the phone when told by a Western Brand Ltd representative that she lost her job because she was 'sick for too long’ on December 29 2015.
She said: “I cried on the phone because I felt guilty because I lost a job I was looking for for a year. I didn’t realise that this was real and was happening - and then when I saw the P45 I cried even more.”
Just 12 days earlier, Ms Petrova was rushed to hospital after fainting at home and she subsequently had a miscarriage at hospital as a result of having an ectopic pregnancy.
She said: “It was the most sad time. I was grieving - every woman who has been through this - we all grieve. You feel guilty that you didn’t keep this baby - you feel terribly, terribly broken.
“And to top it off - just to lose a simple job like that for a reason like this - I couldn’t understand it.”
Ms Petrova said that she didn't know she was pregnant when rushed to Mayo University Hospital on December 17 and believes now that she was seven weeks pregnant when she miscarried.
She said: “I was devastated because of my age - I'm old for having children - and I was told that because of my medical history that I probably won’t have children. I had the saddest Christmas of my life that year."
Ms Petrova said: “I was really, really in a bad emotional condition. Physically Western Brand traumatised me in the manner in which they sacked me. This shouldn’t happen to anyone. I didn’t do anything wrong at Western Brand."
Ms Petrova has a masters degree in European Law and a degree in economics and speaks English, Russia, German and Spanish.
Ms Petrova left Bulgaria for Ireland for love rather than economic circumstances when she left behind a good job in Bulgaria, where she trained medics how to operate medical equipment, to be with her boyfriend, Stephan in Ballyhaunis.
She said: “I was asked why was someone so highly qualified was trying to get a job in a meat factory, but it is a job that puts bread on the table.”
Ms Petrova said that the there are a lot of highly educated overseas workers like her on the production line at Western Brand.
Ms Petrova was earning €8.65 an hour and the treatment she endured of being summarily dismissed over the phone gives a glimpse of the difficulties faced by some migrant workers here.
Conor O’Dwyer of O’Dwyer Solicitors in Ballyhaunis represented Ms Petrova in the case said yesterday that many migrant workers are often so fearful of losing their jobs that they endure appalling conditions rather than seeking to vindicate their rights.
Ms Petrova said that when she told Irish friends in 2016 of her summarily dismissal “they strongly advised me not to do anything - to move on with my life and to get another job”.
She said: “I didn’t listen to them - I believe what happened to me is not right. It would be outrageous not to do anything about it.”
The Western Brand Group told the Labour Court that it didn’t realise that Ms Petrova was pregnant or had suffered a miscarriage at the time of dismissal and that her medical certs confirming the miscarriage were not seen by payroll before the call was made to dismiss her on December 29.
The company stated that after finding that Ms Petrova suffered a miscarriage subsequently apologised to Ms Petrova and said that she could re-apply for her job when returned to full health.
Ms Petrova gave birth to a baby boy, David 11 months ago "after a hard and complicated pregnancy, but thank God we are here, he is growing up and we are happy”.
Ms Petrova is back sending out CVs looking for work once more.
Ms Petrova said she has yet to receive the €17,000 award from Western Brand.
“The €17,000 is not going to change my life. It is not a $12m jackpot but it would be very welcome. It was never about the money, it was about not allowing Western Brand be able to treat a worker in the way I was treated and face no consequences".