A FINE GAEL adviser claims he was ‘fired’ from his 19-year job as financial director of a packaging company in a ‘sham dismissal’ prompted by ‘relationship difficulties’ he had with the owner.
Edward Timmins, a chartered accountant and councilor representing the Baltinglass Municipal District of Co Wicklow, has filed a complaint against AB Group Packaging Ireland Ltd of Blessington, Co Wicklow, alleging he was unfairly selected for dismissal as Chief Financial Officer of the company in 2020.
The company denies this claim and says Mr. Timmins’ role was rendered superfluous because the company was becoming more “agile”.
The firm was represented at a hearing today by Mary-Paula Guinness BL, who called Mark Slattery of Adare HR Management to give evidence.
Mr Slattery told the hearing that Mr Timmins was the financial director of a packaging company operating in Spain, the UK and Co Wicklow.
His company was called in by company owner Dermot Brady initially to write company manuals and to “do something about restructuring” from 2018.
Mr Slattery said the company had “financial issues to sort out” following an unsuccessful attempt to expand into the United States and the resulting contraction of the business in the European market.
In 2018, he said, the company identified a number of positions “at risk of being made redundant”, including that of operations manager at the Blessington plant, other operational staff and some positions in maintenance and engineering.
Mr. Slattery said Mr. Timmins’ role had been identified at this stage. However, he said it was decided to retain him both because of the company’s financial situation at the time and because they decided to postpone the review of the finance team’s positions. see you “a little later”.
After presenting the report to the company owner in January 2020, his engagement with the company continued to manage the HR aspects of the redundancy process, he said.
Mr Slattery said that was when the company wrote to Mr Timmins advising him that his job was at risk of being made redundant.
The human resources consultant testified that he was in correspondence with the chief financial officer throughout January and February 2020 and that he and Mr Brady met with him on four occasions to consult on the dismissal.
He said during correspondence that Mr. Timmins called the process “a baseless and blatant attempt to portray the unfair dismissal of my employment as a dismissal” and suggested that he was denied “due process and that he had been “ejected” from the company. .
Mr. Slattery said he disagreed with that assessment because he and Mr. Brady had presented a business case for restructuring the business.
At an earlier Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) hearing last January, Mr Timmins’ lawyer, Ms Kate Kennedy BL, said her client would testify that his dismissal was not genuine and impersonal, but had been “motivated by interpersonal issues” between Mr. Timmins and Mr. Brady.
“It would be the position of Mr. Timmins … that these difficulties persisted until the time of [the operations manager’s] departure and certainly until the time of his departure in 2020, ”she argued in January.
Mr. Slattery said in evidence today that Mr. Timmins never ‘alluded’ to interpersonal difficulties during the consultation process and said at one point that he would only address them ‘when they arise. would be decided in another forum”.
Mr Timmins told him: ‘I can only assume that your attempt to remove me from the business is based on other issues which I am sure you are aware of,’ Mr Slattery said.
He said Mr Timmins had argued in their consultation meetings that there had been a chief financial officer when he started at the company 19 years previously; that he had been a CFO for 14 years before attempting to enter the US market and for four years afterwards.
The suggestion that the business needed to cut costs further was ‘at odds’ with ‘the owner extracting large sums from the business’ in the region of €60,000 a month, Mr Timmins had written in an e-mail. email open to the audience.
Mr Slattery said the business owner had the right to withdraw cash as he saw fit.
The plaintiff argued the company had lost business because it had been ‘stripped of experienced people’ in a ‘mass exodus’ of staff and that firing him would further harm the business.
Mr Slattery denied there was a ‘mass exodus’ but said staff had left and not been replaced.
He said Mr Timmins had not, during the consultation process, identified an alternative to his dismissal that would achieve the same results as the proposed restructuring plan.
At a meeting on Feb. 24, 2020, he said, Mr. Timmins was told his role was being terminated due to the company’s “withdrawal” from the U.S. market; reduced financial management needs due to the new software system and the “continued need to reduce the company’s cost base”.
Mr Timmins was told he could work out a six-month notice period and would be entitled to statutory severance pay, which the company would pay him with back pay the day after his last day on 23 July, Mr. Slattery said.
Mr. Timmins was offered the option of appealing to an independent investigator hired by the company, but raised questions about the independence of the proposed person, Mr. Slattery said.
The independent investigator carried out a review, he said, adding that he was not aware of any contributions from Mr Timmins.
Arbitrator Jim Dolan adjourned the case this afternoon, with the case set to resume with cross-examination by Mr Timmins.
Two more hearing days are to be booked, the date to be fixed by the WRC in due course.