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Worker stole TV boxes to sell online

A COMMUNICATIONS company worker who stole digital TV boxes from his former boss has had the charges struck out after he paid compensation to the company.

Richard Tracey (29) was caught by detectives when he tried to sell the digital boxes over the internet. He stole the equipment as he was under severe financial pressure and
wasn’t earning enough money to pay all his bills, the court heard.
Tracey lost his job after the theft was discovered. Judge Anthony Halpin dismissed the charge after Tracey paid compensation to his former employer.The defendant, of Bramblefield Walk in Clonee, had admitted before
Blanchardstown District Court to stealing a number of Sky HD boxes and
hard drives, worth €1,350, from Sierra Communications, Nangor Road in
Clondalkin.The thefts took place between December 9, 2011, and February 13 this year.


Tracey also admitted to handling two stolen Sky HD boxes and two hard
drives, worth €300, at Lohunda Park in Clonsilla on February 18.Tracey later admitted to stealing €1,350 worth of Sky digital boxes and hard drives.Tracey, a separated father-of-one, has no previous convictions.

The court heard that Tracey was under severe financial pressure at the
time, had bills and a credit union loan and was not “earning enough
money to live”.
Judge Halpin dismissed the charges after Tracey paid compensation to his former employer.


Wage rises spark wave of claims by shop staff

MORE than 8,000 sales assistants have made claims for pay rises on the back of €700-a-year increases for staff at Marks & Spencer and Tesco.

Mandate has sought wage hikes for 3,500 Penneys staff and 700 workers at Boots, after winning increases of up to 2.5pc at major retail chains.The union has also lodged a pay claim for 4,500 members at Dunnes Stores. The move comes just weeks after it secured a 2pc wage increase for 13,000 staff at Tesco from next January. This followed a 2.5pc rise for over 3,000 staff at Marks and Spencer, to keep pace with inflation.

The pay rises at the British chains are having a domino effect on big retailers. Mandate is optimistic that it will get rises for almost half its 45,000 members by next year.


“We’ve made a good dent in it already with Marks and Tesco, so we would hope to go well beyond 50pc of our members,” said Assistant General Secretary, Gerry Light. He said Penneys and Boots had agreed to talks, but Dunnes had not yet responded.

“I think the time has come for these claims because these people are on relatively low pay of little over €20,000 a year, but are working harder than they were in the boom due to cuts in staff numbers and other cost savings.”

He pointed out that staff at Penneys, which has 38 stores, had endured pay freezes, like most workers in the industry. But the business had “weathered the recession well”.

Mr Light said Boots, which has 72 stores, must take account of the recent pay awards and the fact that its UK parent company gave a 2pc increase to staff.

Employers’ body Retail Excellence Ireland said the wave of  claims was unlikely to affect most of the 255,000 staff in the retail sector, as many stores were struggling.

Chief executive David Fitzsimons said he was surprised by the rises as the industry was
still in decline. Pay freezes were still the norm and that was unlikely to change before 2014.


Finance schemes for SMEs in place by September

THE long-awaited loan guarantee scheme for small firms and a microfinance fund for start-ups will be running by September, Small Business Minister John Perry said yesterday. Speaking at the Small Firms Association’s (SFA) annual conference in Dublin, Mr Perry said the guarantee was being processed “urgently” while the microfinance fund will help restore confidence in the start-up sector.

“These two schemes will be up and running in the third quarter of this year. “Both of these are designed to assist companies who have been refused credit by the banks, because they are deemed to be a higher risk. We are urgently progressing the necessary legislation to underpin the loan guarantee scheme, while the microfinance loan fund is designed to
stimulate lending to sustainable micro enterprises. “It is targeted at start-ups, newly established or growing micro enterprises across all industry sectors, employing not more than 10 people,” he added.


Mr Perry conceded that while SMEs were operating in a  particularly tough environment at the moment, he was confident the Government was working to get the sector functioning again. Pointing to a survey by the National Consumer Agency, the minister said consumers were now far less willing to accept lower levels of service than during the boom and firms had to match their service to consumer expectations.

“Consumer empowerment metrics since 2007 and the  latest data published in March 2012 shows that levels of stated empowerment are at all-time high levels: 77pc state they  are confident of their rights; [while close to the same percentage] assert they are knowledgeable of their rights, and feel protected in respect of their rights.

“The most recent research in relation to consumers’ willingness to complain revealed that
85pc of consumers were willing to complain when they have cause or reason to do so.

“The message is clear: consumers are more willing than ever to assert their rights and take action if they have a problem. The challenge for retailers and service providers, therefore, is to ensure that they have appropriate systems in place to deal with the inevitable issues that occur and respond to these in a fair and open manner,” Mr Perry said.

The conference was opened by SFA chairman Ian Martin, who said confidence was the key to getting the Irish economy working properly again. “Restoring consumer confidence must become a policy priority for government, just as it is for individual businesses in their own
strategic plans,” he said.

“It is essential that action is taken to address the challenges in the domestic economy to ensure it does not hinder future growth and prosperity for  many indigenous small firms.”

A survey commissioned by the SFA to coincide with the conference found small and medium firms were overwhelmingly against the cutting of redundancy rebates for employers in last year’s Budget and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton’s proposals to introduce mandatory sick pay and pension provision on employers.


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Bus Eireann staff face pay cuts and job losses if they don’t accept restructuring

BUS Eireann’s 2,500 staff face pay cuts and job losses if they do not accept cuts to their overtime, holidays and sick leave.

The company has announced to slash €20m from its costs each year and ensure it is profitable again by next year. It aims to save €9m by changing employee’s existing terms and conditions.

Among the proposals are cuts to their overtime, holidays, premium payments,
expenses and sick leave and an increase in the working week. Career breaks will also be offered to staff under the five-year plan, which still has to be negotiated with unions.

However, Bus Eireann has set a deadline of August 13 for the talks. The semi-state company said it faces potential annual losses of €16m due to a 20pc fall in customer numbers, cuts in state subsidies, increased competition and a €4m hike in fuel costs.

Injuries Board chief warns against cutting corners on safety

Injuries Board chief warns against cutting corners on safety

Injuries Board chief executive, Patricia Byron, has cautioned businesses
against cutting corners on health and safety.

Speaking following the launch of a report on workplace accident claims, issued
to mark the World Day for Health & Safety at Work, Ms Byron said that while
businesses are under constant pressure to drive efficiencies, often operating
with scare resources, “cutting corners on employee safety is a cut too far”.

The Injuries Board’s Review of Workplace Accidents 2011
expands on preliminary information released to HSR following the publication of
Board’s Annual Review for 2011 (see HSR,
April 2012, pg1
. The key figures revealed in the review show
(figures for 2010 in brackets):

  • Men are twice as likely as women to receive an award for a workplace accident: 70%
    of all awards compared to 30%.
  • Men received an average award of €27,246 (€28,924), while the average award for
    women was €26,771 (€25,876).
  • Those in the 25 to 34 age group received one-third of awards, with those in the age
    35 to 44 receiving 24.6% of awards and those in the 18 to 24 age group receiving 12.5% of awards.
  • Thursday was the most dangerous workday, with Sunday the safest, while November was the most dangerous month and April the safest.

    Ms Byron said the manufacturing and production sectors accounted for the majority of awards, with slips/trips/falls, defective equipment and poor lifting and handling of goods being the most common causes of accidents. Ms Byron said the Board is continually surprised by the volume of foreseeable and preventable claims.

    Making the point that the Board has driven down the cost of claims, Ms Byron said “it is far more effective to prevent accidents happening in the first place than to deal with the consequences afterwards”. (See also Conference Reports, pg11)

HSE gets tough and sacks two staff for ‘persistent absenteeism’

TWO health workers have been sacked recently as part of a ‘get tough’ approach to absences without legitimate reason.

HSE director John Hennessy said that the two employees in support services lost their jobs over persistent absenteeism.

Last September, the assistant national director for finance, Liam Minihan,
said 1,100 staff are out sick every day in the HSE West area, which
covers 10 counties stretching from Donegal to Limerick.

On the recent sackings, Mr Hennessy said: “They were simply unable to render reliable service to the organisation that was paying them.”

Mr Hennessy said that the disciplinary procedures are invoked when there
isn’t adequate explanation for an absence or where there is persistent

“It does move into a four-stage process: repeated warnings,
letters, final warnings, but eventually it does reach the final stages
and we have had two in the recent two or three months,” he said.


Car rental firm hires 12 staff as profits soar 60pc

PROFITS at one of the country’s largest car rental groups surged by almost 60pc last year, enabling the company to hire an extra 12 people.

Accounts just filed by Dan Dooley Group Ltd show that before tax, profits came in at €558,536 in the year to November 30, 2011, up 59pc on 2010′s results. “We are happy with our performance last year,” chairman Dan Dooley said, noting the “tough trading conditions”.

Mr Dooley said the group has employed an additional 12 people this year to staff its operations at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport, bringing the numbers now employed by the group to 82.

Mr Dooley said that the group is anticipating profits and revenues will increase by 10pc this year.

He said said the increase in volume of business along with a continuing cost-reduction programme were the factors behind the increased profits.

The figures show that the firm’s operating profits last year increased by 64pc from €358,940 to €589,389.

However, net interest payments totalling €30,853 reduced the firm’s profits to €558,536.


Poorly trained graduates are ‘unemployable’

IRELAND’S marketing colleges are failing the country’s thriving tech sector by turning out “unemployable” graduates who have learned “the history of the television” rather than the very basics in IT marketing skills, a leading tech-sector businessman has claimed.

Ian Dodson, who runs the Digital Marketing Institute, set up by the Irish digital industry itself to remedy the education problem, says almost none of Ireland’s dozen-plus colleges that offer marketing qualifications carries a relevant digital marketing content. This is despite the fact that the internet has been with us for more than 15 years.

“The industry and the students are being done a major disservice by being taught by people who have never worked in the digital industry. When they emerge after four years in college, companies in our industry have to send them off on courses on how to use basics like Microsoft Power Point and Office — before they even approach becoming
employable. We are being sent babies who need to be taught how to walk.

“Take Paypal, which has been looking to fill 1,000 jobs. They will be lucky if they get 500 Irish people who are qualified enough in language skills. At the moment, there are almost no regular marketing jobs out there yet on our website but Irish digital companies are advertising, looking for 200 people in Dublin alone at the moment.

“We need people who know about analytics, LinkedIn, Facebook and so on, not people who can tell us how the telephone developed through the ages. Colleges are doing their graduates and the industry a major disservice.

“We are being fed this rubbish that it takes years to change a college course curriculum. No it doesn’t. Just add relevant modules and we will have graduates ready to take up jobs when they leave college.”

He added that there is a whole new gamut of job types such as SEO manager (search engine optimisation) and analytics manager that didn’t exist five years ago.

The Digital Marketing Institute was set up three years ago to train candidates, using teachers who are working in the industry.

It was established as a direct reaction to the shortage of qualified Irish candidates.

“When we look back 10 years ago we see that foreign direct investment companies came to Ireland because we were turning out qualified graduates who suited their industries, now we are not. It’s that simple. In fact western Europe is asleep at the wheel at the moment when it comes to relevant digital education,” said Mr Dodson.


I worked 11 hours, 7 days a week — and got fired for collapsing from exhaustion

WHEN Monika Mazur arrived in Ireland, she couldn’t believe her luck in landing a job just four days later.

She had just come through a divorce and left Wroclaw in Poland to join her parents and sister in Tralee, Co Kerry.

Ms Mazur started working in the Nile Shoarma and Pizza Hut takeaway in Castle Street on November 1, 2008.

But she was sacked from the job on April 28, 2009, when she collapsed from
exhaustion and had to be taken to Kerry General Hospital.

Her only day off in that time was Christmas Day.

Her sister Anna rang Ms Mazur’s employer, Mohammed Afzal Chaundhry, from
the hospital to tell him Monika would not be able to go to work.

She was told to tell her sister if she wasn’t in, the job was gone.

This week, an Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) ruled in her favour against
Mr Chaundhry of Chaundhry House, Dromtacker, Tralee, who is originally
from Pakistan, and awarded her €10,500.

The tribunal had heard that Ms Mazur worked 11 hours a day, seven days a week.

Her former employer, a married father of five, claimed he had been involved
in a relationship with her and subsequently she was always at his
premises and used to help out chopping vegetables.

“I used to only have cigarette breaks but these were quick because there was always someone coming into the restaurant,” Ms Mazur told the Irish Independent

She said she had been delighted to get the job at the start because her English was so limited. She started working in the kitchen chopping vegetables but within two months was making kebabs and pizzas, dealing with customers at the counter and over the phone and also did the cleaning.

Mr Chaundhry told her he was opening another business, the Tasty Grill in Kilrush, Co Clare, and she said he was rarely at the Tralee takeaway.

She said she asked him on numerous occasions how long she would have to continue to work such long hours but never got a satisfactory response.

“I didn’t feel well and I knew I should leave but because of my family’s financial situation I had to stay,” she said.


In the end, when she collapsed and was fired from the job, she went to a
social welfare office only to discover she wasn’t entitled to any benefits because she had not made any contributions.

Mr Chaundhry had never registered her for tax or PRSI and did not issue her with a P45 when her employment was terminated.

She said that although she was relieved that the tribunal found in her favour, she still feared that she wouldn’t get the money that’s owed to her.

However, she encourages other people in a similar situation to report their employer and seek justice.

“Please God more people will complain because people like him should not be able to get away with that,” she said.

“He’s not only cheating the people who work for them but he’s also cheating the Irish State.”

Ms Mazur is now happily involved in a back-to-work scheme with FAS in Tralee and says she can’t get over the kindness of the people who have helped her to bring her case to the EAT.

“Always my dream was to work with children but I know my English isn’t perfect, but I will work on that,” she added.


Hector’s brother awarded €85,000 in dismissal case

THE brother of presenter Hector O hEochagain has been awarded €85,000
compensation for unfair dismissal as manager of a well-known pub.

Mark Keogan was dismissed from The George Pub and Nightclub in George’s Street, Dublin in September 2009. Mr Keogan had sued Vikram Ltd, which trades as Capital Bars. It is the
owner of The George and two other Dublin bar clubs — Cafe en Seine and Howl at the Moon — all of which are currently in receivership.

The court was told that in August 2009, Mr Keogan had received a letter from the financial controller of Vikram Ltd stating that a check on the pub safe revealed a cash anomaly.

It had appeared that €1,100 in cash had been taken from the safe and replaced with a personal cheque from Mr Keogan for that amount. Mr Keogan, of Kells Road, Navan,
Co Meath, had claimed it was custom and practice to cash cheques. He said he had previously cashed dozens of cheques which were lodged to the company’s credit.

Barrister Francis Drumm, for Mr Keogan, told the Circuit Civil Court that the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) had decided Mr Keogan had been unfairly dismissed and directed he be reinstated in his job as manager of The George.

Tom Mallon, for Vikram Ltd and the receiver, told Circuit Court President Mr Justice
Matthew Deery that the receiver was appealing the EAT decision. The company was wholly insolvent and in receivership since November 2009.

He said the EAT order had been made against the company and the receiver — despite Mr Keogan having been dismissed before the receiver had been appointed. Mr Mallon said that after the dismissal of Mr Keogan the company’s status had changed, and therefore a reinstatement order was not enforceable, as there was no such position currently available
for him.

Mr Drumm said The George, and the two other pubs, had been taken over by the receiver and were currently being run by an agency, Splash Hospitality Management, for the receiver. Judge Deery said Mr Keogan was entitled to compensation for having been unfairly dismissed but said it would be inappropriate to direct his reinstatement as manager. He awarded him compensation of €85,000 against Vikram Ltd and made him a preferential creditor of the company.

The judge made no order against the receiver and made no order as to legal costs.