Davenport food manager wins €28,000 for unfair dismissal – The Irish Times

A Dublin hotel group that claimed it could not avoid redundancies due to cuts to business subsidies has been ordered to pay a 20-year hospitality veteran more than €28,000 for unfair dismissal.

Adam Brien told a hearing the way he was fired had ‘destroyed’ his faith in the hospitality business – and he would not be going back to it.

His claim under the Unfair Dismissal Act against Persian Properties Unlimited, trading as the O’Callaghan Collection, was upheld by the Workplace Relations Commission in a decision released on Friday.

He claimed the company failed to apply fair procedures in firing him as catering manager at the Davenport Hotel on August 7, 2020.

The company denied unfair dismissal and argued the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic meant there was simply no job available for him.

The company’s chief executive, Paul O’Callaghan, has argued that the group cut its workforce by two-thirds when restrictions were imposed on the hospitality sector for public health reasons in March 2020. The position of the company was that it had placed approximately 180 employees on temporary layoff and maintained 76 others on a part-time basis, including Mr. Brien.

Persian Properties operates four hotels in Dublin under the O’Callaghan brand: the Davenport on Lincoln Place, the Alexander on Fenian Street, the Mont Hotel on Lower Merrion Street and the Green Hotel on Cuffe Street.

Of the four, only the Alexander Hotel reopened in August 2020, with an occupancy rate of around 5% against 80% expected for the season – which equates to an occupancy rate of 1.4% in the entire group, the company said. .

Mr O’Callaghan argued that the group was spending €350,000 a month – including €181,000 in wages – even though its income had fallen by 85-90% – and that they were “doing work” for those who were still on the list.

“Just in case people see the headlines about vacations going well, Dublin is just decimated,” he told the hearing. “We are a family business. We are not sheikhs with oil that we can pump to pay for it.

Although the government initially supported businesses with a tax-administered subsidy called the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), in July 2020 it announced it would move to providing a credit for employment. tax under the transitional wage subsidy scheme.

Persian Properties’ chief financial officer, Paul Lively, said that when the change was announced as part of the government’s stimulus package in July that year, he calculated wage costs would rise by €74,000 as a result. To compensate, the leaders decided to cut 17 additional jobs.

On the morning of August 7, staff were told in a meeting that redundancies were being sought and Mr. Brien asked his supervisor what was going on.

“He said he didn’t know anything but to continue my work,” he testified. “[It was] annoying because no one knew. My little team that worked with me was asking and I didn’t know.

He then noticed that he had no access to his work email account on his phone, and soon after was called into an upstairs meeting room of the hotel to meet with the General Manager. Paul Joy and Group Human Resources Manager Samantha Shepherd.

“I walked in and they told me to sit down, and I saw the pile of papers in front of Sam, and I know myself, I had a lump in my throat and I started shaking,” did he declare.

“They said they were unfortunately going to have to let me go, they were firing me.”

“Every employee was contacted, not just handed a letter and said ‘good luck’,” Mr O’Callaghan said. “We don’t treat people like that.”

Andrew King, on behalf of the complainant, said it was their view that Mr. Brien should have been consulted on possible alternatives to dismissal, such as further reducing his hours or being temporarily laid off without balance.

“Did you say something?” he asked his client.

“No, I was shocked,” replied Mr. Brien. “I had to pull myself together not to burst into tears in front of them.”

Mr Brien testified that he initially earned over €2,900 a month as a catering manager and now earns €1,507.62 as a specialist assistant.

He told the hearing that he was so discouraged by the dismissal process that when he was later recruited for a similar role with a competitor, he chose to continue his training as an SNA for the safety of ‘a public. employment in the sector, despite falling wages.

“It’s just that having that on me, to think that they could have me come over and say, ‘Thank you so much, bye, you’re done now’, it destroyed any confidence I had in the industry. hotelier for all these years,” he said.

In her decision, published on Friday, successful bidder Catherine Byrne wrote that the requirement for a “skeleton crew” within the hotel group was “necessarily temporary” and that a temporary cessation of activity was provided for by law.

She writes that Mr. Brien’s career in the hotel group “would have been maintained” by putting him on technical unemployment.

“This was precisely the aim of government schemes such as the EWSS and the PUP; their aim was to maintain the link between employers and employees during the pandemic and to avoid job losses.

She wrote that the company had ‘battened down the hatches’ when the lockdown hit, with ‘no idea’ they would be closed for 19 months – but noted there was no evidence that managers had ‘considered to close or sell any of their properties or change their use”.

“They have decided to ride out the storm until they can reopen. In such a scenario, it is obvious that the complainant’s job, and other jobs that were laid off or made redundant, were going to be needed when the business reopened,’ Ms Byrne added.

She judged that her work had not been redundant.

“These difficulties do not relieve [the company] the obligation to act reasonably when it comes to dismissing an employee, to consider all possible alternatives and to involve the employee in the final decision,” she added.

Ms Byrne found Mr Brien’s dismissal abusive and ordered the company to pay him €28,500 in compensation for the loss of earnings.