High Court dismisses an application by meat factory production manager

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The High Court has dismissed an application to grant injunctions sought by meat factory production manager who claims he was unfairly suspended by his employer. 

Alvaro Carvalho had sought orders against his employer Carroll's Cuisine Unlimited Company, based in Tullamore, Co Offaly which processes and packages meat products for sale in Ireland and abroad. 

The company opposed the application and denies his claims.

In her judgment Mr Justice Eileen Creedon said she was not satisfied to grant Mr Carvalho of Harbour Drive, Tullamore  injunctions he wanted put in place pending the outcome of his dispute against his employer.

These included orders including quashing parts of a report complied following an investigation conducted after he was suspended from his job last October on the grounds it was flawed and conducted in the absence of fair procedures. 

While Mr Carvalho had raised a fair issue to be tried, the issues raised were best left for the judge hearing the full dispute, the Judge found. 

However the balance of convenience, nor the adequacy of damages did not favour the granting of the injunction on that ground the judge said. 

The judge said other injunctions sought by Mr Carvalho including an injunction directing the company to conduct an independent investigation conducted into his suspension were also refused. 

The judge said the injunctions sought were mandatory in nature. 

The Judge added she was taking into account factors including that Mr Carvalho was not in peril of losing his job, and assurances had been given by his employer that the terms and conditions of his employment had not been altered. 

The Judge who reserved costs in the matter, adjourned the case to a date in January. 

The court had previously heard Mr Carvalho made a protected disclosure after his suspension about alleged food safety breaches to Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

The company "strenuously denies" all allegations it has breached food safety standards and says it takes its obligations in that regard "very seriously." It has contacted the FSAI and the Department of Agriculture about the allegations and denies all claims made against it by Mr Carvalho.

Mr Carvalho, represented by solicitor Richard Stapleton  was suspended on allegations he lacked respect for fellow employees. 

He says there is "no substance" to the claims and was not given a chance to deal with the allegations. The suspension was a way to force him to resign, he claims.

He claims the company began to expanded production at the plant, but pressure to increase production "got out of control"

To meet new targets he claims "food safety standards were blatantly ignored" and "normal cleaning and hygiene protocols were compromised,".

He said he was unwilling to be a party to these dangerous practices and resisted them resulting in him being targeted by senior management.

Following his suspension  an investigation, which he claims he was denied fair procedures, was carried out in November. 

It found the allegations against him did not merit any further investigation at this stage. He claims certain comments in the report are damaging to him. 

In early December his suspension was lifted but on his return to work he said "drastic changes" were imposed on him without his consent. He has been off work and is on holiday leave.  

The company argued injunction the application was misconceived.  It also denies any breaches of food safety standards.

Mr Carvalho's claims including his allegations management instructed staff to increase production to levels where food safety standards were compromised are denied.

Mr Carvalho is not subject to any disciplinary process and there are no adverse findings on his personnel record, it said. 

The company said Mr Carvalho did not raise any food safety issues with senior management before his suspension. 

Food safety standards at the plant are regularly audited and checked by bodies including the Dept of Agriculture and by its customers. it argued. 

The plant was recently audited by the British Retail Consortium, which had verbally confirmed afterwards the plant will continue to hold the A grade status.