Protective disclosure made over alleged food safety breaches at meat company

Stock photo
Stock photo

A meat factory production manager who claims he was unfairly suspended by his employer has made a protective disclosure about alleged food safety breaches to Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), the High Court heard.

The claims have been made by Alvaro Carvalho who works for Carrolls Cuisine Unlimited Company, based in Tullamore, Co Offaly which processes and packages beef, chicken, pork, ham, and turkey products for sale in Ireland and abroad expanded production.

Mr Carvalho, of Harbour Drive, Tullamore, seeks various orders and declarations from including an injunction restraining his employer from continuing with any disciplinary process against him into alleged misconduct.

He also seeks orders restraining the company from penalizing, demoting or victimising him and that the company deal with grievances he has raised.

In opposing the application, the company "strenuously denies" all allegations it has breached food safety standards.

It says it takes its obligations  "very seriously."  It has been in contact with the FSAI and the Department of Agriculture about the allegations.

Mr Carvalho who has worked in the industry for 20 years commenced work with Carrolls Cuisine in 2013.

Last October he was suspended allegedly for having a lack of respect and empathy for fellow employees.

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In a sworn statement to the court he said there is "no substance" to the claims and says he was not given a chance to deal with the allegations. The suspension was a way to force him to resign.

Following his suspension he says a senior manager told him there was one way to stop this and that was for him to make an offer and he would get an excellent reference.

He said earlier this year the company began to expand production at the plant.

He said the pressure to increase production "got out of control" last September when senior management instructed staff to increase production to "an inordinate degree."

This placed an "intolerable burden" on both him and staff at the plant.

In order to meet those targets "food safety standards were blatantly ignored and normal cleaning and hygiene protocols were compromised, he said.

He said he was unhappy with this pressure to increase production and was unwilling to be a party to these dangerous practices and resisted them. He said he believes he was targeted by senior management as he had become "an obstacle to their business ambitions. "

Following his suspension, an investigation found  the allegations against him did not merit any further investigation at this stage.

Mr Carvalho said he was upset to read comments by the investigator that inter personal issues involving Mr Carvalho at the work place would be best dealt with by counselling and mediation between the parties.

The report also said it appeared Mr Carvalho had shouted at colleagues acted in an aggressive manner towards him.   

He said those findings were damaging to him, and in his proceedings seeks to have them quashed.

In early December his suspension was lifted but on his return to work he said "drastic changes" were imposed on him without his consent including that his shifts were changed from eight hours to 12 hours in length, he was moved to a smaller office, and that he was demoted.

In a sworn statement opposing the injunction application the company's managing Director Kieran  Carolan said the application is misconceived, and there was no basis for the injunctions sought.  

He also denied any breaches of food safety standards.

The application for an injunction, pending the outcome of the full hearing of Mr Carvalho's action, was heard by Ms Justice Eileen Creedon who has reserved judgment.

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