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Dunnes accused of 'hang 'em first' policy over sacking

A SUPERMARKET chain has been accused of a "hang them first" industrial relations policy after sacking a mother of two who admitted clocking up value club points on her loyalty card from customer transactions.

Dunnes Stores dismissed Chinese national Ying Liu in May 2010 for misusing her value club card while operating a till.

Ms Ying had been working in the groceries department of the Kilkenny branch of Dunnes Stores for eight years.

The 37-year-old Irish citizen has taken an unfair dismissal case before the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).

Dunnes ordered Ying Liu off the premises after dismissing her on Monday, May 31, 2010. A disciplinary meeting had taken place with Ms Ying on the Friday before her dismissal. However, a decision had been reached by the Monday, the EAT heard.

Dunnes Stores said Ms Ying had admitted "value club fraud" which it viewed as "very serious". Records showed she used her personal card 46 times from January to May 2010 to gain points while on the register. Customers are posted Dunnes' vouchers that are redeemable in the store after they clock up a certain level of points.

Solicitor for Ms Ying, Seamus Brennan, said the disciplinary procedure had happened "at huge speed".

"At the end of the day, the Dunnes Stores style of industrial relations is 'hang them first'," Mr Brennan claimed.

"It's a pretty poor industrial relations set-up."

Mr Brennan said his client was let go without a warning and was a "lamb to the slaughter".

In evidence, Ms Ying said she used her loyalty card when customers allowed her -- and when they didn't hold a card themselves. She also admitted asking friends and her partner to use her card on their transactions to increase her points.

She said she only resorted to doing this after Dunnes Stores slashed her hours from an average of 25-30 a week to just 15.

The EAT heard she was paid €13.30 an hour -- with a 20pc discount on shopping in-store, at the time of her dismissal.

Ms Ying said she didn't read her contract of employment before signing it and had not realised it was wrong to use her loyalty card to gain points from customer transactions when she had their permission.

Fiona O'Reilly, a human resources manager with Dunnes Stores, said she had taken notes at a meeting with Ms Ying on May 28, 2010. She conceded that Ms Ying had not been told that day that her actions could result in her dismissal.

Ms Ying has asked to be re-instated to her position. She has been unemployed since her dismissal.

Sandra Masterson, solicitor for Dunnes Stores, said the company didn't trust Ms Ying, adding that "the employee has 100pc contributed to her own dismissal."

The EAT will issue a written decision in due course.

Irish Independent