No lunch with Natalia

For a few weeks the Great Victoria Street branch of Subway has been experiencing protests from Trades Unions and social activists in support of Natalia Szymanska, a 19 year old Polish woman sacked in her fifth month of pregnancy on a dubious charge of being in breach of the company’s health and safety policy.

The protesters have been demanding:

• immediately reinstate the pregnant worker,
• reimburse her for loss of earnings,
• compensate her for the injury to feeling,
• treat all workers fairly.

The last case of challenging an employer on how they treated a worker in a similar situation resulted in a change of stance- remember Delaneys?

Join the Protest
Subway
6-8 Great Victoria Street,
Belfast
12.30 – 1.30 pm Friday 5th December

Who is next?

  • Natalia who?

    Come off it. Isn’t it an abuse of this website to be promoting this stuff?

    Sure, you may feel strongly about it, but personal crusades/advertisements should be reserved for personal blogs/websites should they not?

  • Not at all an abuse of this website. It’s about NI politics and culture. This is politics. Not only that, but it seems to be part of the mission here, unspoken or not, is to help encourage a sense of collective interest and to make NI a better society. This seems to me to fit perfectly.

    Fair play to you Mark. Keep it up.

  • Politico

    This website should not be a shop window for Mark McGregor and his hobbies.

    Mick are you going to do something about this?

  • Mark McGregor

    Sack McGregor!

    (catch a grip – I blog what I like. Don’t like it? You have Mick’s email address and an open invite to pitch your own stuff)

  • willis

    As far as I can see, if there is a fair and open origination policy, then Mark can post what he likes within the law.

    When you consider some of the stuff that gets posted

    etc etc.

    I might even make my own way over to the picket.

  • Bmac

    Not often (never previously?) I agree M McG but this time he’s spot on. I will not purchase a meatball bap from this establishment until Natalia gets reinstated!!
    On a serious note – I find Polish workers in all sectors so much more helpful, courteous and willing than their NI counterparts. Not one Polish worker has ever wiped his/her nose on their sleeve, looked at me contemptuously and snarled, “Ye gettin?”.

  • Paul McMahon

    More power to your elbow Mark. This gross abuse of labour rights needs to be highlighted by every means possible.

    I’m going to follow Bmac’s example and to all those who castigate Mark for being consciencetious of vulnerable workers rights “Who is next?” is a fitting warning.

  • Just an ordinary man

    Mark, is this dispute still ongoing as the 1st link refers to the next protest being in October?
    I’m only asking as myself and a few friends would be willing to organise a solidarity picket outside our local Subway.

  • McGrath

    Maybe Natalia was a fanny scratching, nose picking slug who couldn’t turn up to work on time if her life depended upon it?

    Mr McGregor is asking for support without any information to suggest the above isn’t true.

    Have we reached a point now that pregnancy is infallible? If the same girl had the clap and got fired, would there still be a protest?

  • Nomad

    How long had she worked there? Isn’t this a legal issue? (By which I mean it should be easily resolvable)

    The link wouldn’t open for me..

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘Maybe Natalia was a fanny scratching, nose picking slug who couldn’t turn up to work on time if her life depended upon it?’

    Quite a Hobbesian view to take without any evidence don’t you think? Im sure there are those of us who prefer to take a more enlightened view of humanity, one which is thankfully reinforced by Marks thread, good stuff Mr McGregor.

  • Reader

    RepublicanStones: Quite a Hobbesian view to take without any evidence don’t you think?
    How are we meant to pick *either* side without evidence?

  • RepublicanStones

    Reader I like to think of people as inherently good, UNTIL evidence is produced to the contrary. Sure isn’t that the basis of our whole legal system in the west?

    I think to do things the other way round is quite cynical….given the season thats in it too !

  • Rory

    Discrimination against womwn workers who become pregnant continues apace throughout all areas of employment despite legislation to counteract it and often the only redress the woman has is the power of her united colleagues, the strength of trade unions and the goodwill of public opinion.

    Let us hope that all these are deployed to the full in defending Natalia Szymanska and that she is successful in having her demands met.

    McGrath’s comments were quite deplorable and come from one who seems to revel in wallowing in his loutishness. Shame on him.

  • Dave

    Rory, if she or the unions had a case instead of a whinge, she would have brought a case against her employers for unfair dismissal.

    Attempting to disrupt an employer’s place of business as a means of forcing them to employ incompetent workers against their expressed preference is a despicable tactic.

    In addition, if you want to whinge about sexism, then why not complain that maternity leave only applies to one parent as determined by gender, denying the other parent an opportunity to bond with the child in a non-sexist manner?

  • Jimmy

    What was the actual breach of Health and safety rules that led to the girl being fired ?
    Theres always two sides to every story.

  • Reader

    RepublicanStones: Reader I like to think of people as inherently good, UNTIL evidence is produced to the contrary. Sure isn’t that the basis of our whole legal system in the west?
    Yes – then you won’t accuse her manager of unfair dismissal without evidence, will you?

  • Jo

    There is no question whatsoever of incompetence in this case, despite the assumptions outlined above.

    listened to your explanation I considered it to be unsatisfactory because, as notified to all employees and posted on the notice boards in store, the following Health and Safety regulation was blatantly disregarded:
    ‘The only personnel allowed to be on the premises are those members of staff that are on duty and clocked in to do the opening and closing duties. (…) No unauthorised members of staff, friends or family members are to be on the premises.’
    I listened to your explanations at the hearing but you failed to provide any mitigating circumstances and I have to take into account the fact that you are employed in a position of trust and responsibility. There is no doubt that Andrzej was present in store without authorisation as this was shown on our CCTV, you therefore disregarded the Health and Safety regulations and as such we have lost trust and confidence in you in your position of Supervisor. As a consequence therefore, I have decided that your employment should be terminated.’

    Extract from Natalia’s letter of Appeal:

    I wish to appeal the decision to dismiss me on the following grounds:-

    1. That the level of disciplinary action was overly excessive.

    2. Senior management were aware that my boyfriend Andrzej, who was also an employee of G. G. Cuisine, would call into the shop to escort me home as my shift ended at 10pm and he was concerned for my safety especially given my condition. At no time did management inform Andrzej or me that he should not do this.

    3. I believe that the real reason for my dismissal was due to the fact that I had recently informed G. G. Cuisine that I was pregnant.

    It is the representative’s view that the appeal conducted by the Financial Director was not fair as it did not address the central point of Natalia’s case i.e. that senior management previously accepted that Natalia’s partner, who was also a Subway employee, regularly came to the shop as she was pregnant.

    One month after she informed the employer that she was pregnant Natalia was sacked.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘Yes – then you won’t accuse her manager of unfair dismissal without evidence, will you?’

    Eh reader as it is she whose life has been affected and has been accused of something to lead to her dismissal my point stands, I haven’t accused the manager of anything. Back to your copy of Leviathan.

  • qubol

    unbelievable. I wish I could lend my support to the protest. Anyone that can’t attend the protest could also mail Subway Customer Services on their Worldwide site and ask what they are doing about it. GG Cuisine clearly don’t give a shit but the I’m sure the Subway will mind about the damage to their brand.

    http://www.subway.com/Applications/CustService/frmCustomerService.aspx

  • Dave

    Well, that’s it, Reader, you are supposed to assume that pregnant women are granted immunity from complying with Health & Safety regulations (even if that might mean someone making your sandwich who didn’t wash her hands after using the toilet), and that if any employer acts to protect the customer from food poisoning, that he is in fact merely using it as an excuse to sack ‘a poor pregnant immigrant’ in order to avoid maternity leave payments. I fail to see the logic in that because (a) her job is not skilled and therefore she is easily replaceable, and (b) statutory maternity leave payments are reclaimed from national insurance contributions by the employer and is therefore paid for by the state and not the employer. It’s the taxpayers who save money as a result of her dismissal, not the employer.

  • Jo

    Woman has boyfriend (also an employee of the company)pick her up regularly without this being an issue.

    Woman tells employer she is pregnant.

    When boyfriend picks her up again, this is somehow seen as a breach of confidence (sic) and woman is sacked.

    Lovely stuff.

  • RedMole

    Good to real more of this type of politics up on Slugger. Its not just green and orange old sh*te

  • McGrath

    McGrath’s comments were quite deplorable and come from one who seems to revel in wallowing in his loutishness. Shame on him.

    Posted by Rory on Dec 05, 2008 @ 10:45 AM

    That was a question Rory, not an opinion.

    The point I made was that we were asked to automatically assume that just because she was pregnant she was unfairly dismissed. Some people deserve to be sacked Rory, even pregnant people.

    Based on your sentiment, a plead of not guilty would be sufficient to end proceedings in Rory’s court.

    Am I not equally as guilty as Mr McGregor for asking people to assume the opposite?

    However, based on the evidence Jo has posted, the situation seems rather suspect, pregnant or not.

  • Mack

    Are subways franchises or centrally owned & run?

    Don’t know anything about this case, but I wouldn’t put it past a small business attempting something dodgy if they thought a pregnancy was going to cost them.

    Not familar with maternity law in NI, but I presume they don’t actually have to pay salary – just hold the employees job (while the state compensates)?

    I would imagine that many small businesses find aspects of pregnancy difficult & costly. Reduced productivity, increased sick leave for example.

    However, if a business sacks a worker to save on those costs I would hope that not only such a worker would be compensated generously, but that the owner be heavily fined!

    What is due process in this case?

  • McGrath

    Quite a Hobbesian view to take without any evidence don’t you think? Im sure there are those of us who prefer to take a more enlightened view of humanity, one which is thankfully reinforced by Marks thread, good stuff Mr McGregor.

    Posted by RepublicanStones on Dec 05, 2008 @ 08:53 AM

    It would be quite hobbesian, if that was indeed my view. However, the topic is asking us to make an assumption. Why would it be diligent to assume an employee is guiltless?

  • Rory

    Whether slyly framed as question or not, McGrath, your remarks really were gross and loutish and intended to strengthen the company’s position against their employee. But we all make mistakes and you have redeemed yourself somewhat in your last post.

    In a sort of trade of honour, I offer this confession of a prejudice of my own which often colours my perspective and it is this: in any situation involving a statement on employment negotiation the bosses will always lie. A prejudice, I might add, yet to be confounded during my working life.

  • RepublicanStones

    “It would be quite hobbesian, if that was indeed my view. However, the topic is asking us to make an assumption. Why would it be diligent to assume an employee is guiltless?”

    So your assumption wasn’t your view? Perhaps you’d care to extrapolate that for the back of the class. Incase you forgot what you said the first time, here it is…

    “Maybe Natalia was a fanny scratching, nose picking slug who couldn’t turn up to work on time if her life depended upon it?

    Mr McGregor is asking for support without any information to suggest the above isn’t true.

    Have we reached a point now that pregnancy is infallible? If the same girl had the clap and got fired, would there still be a protest? ”

    Like I said….Hobbesian.

  • McGrath

    Posted by RepublicanStones on Dec 05, 2008 @ 11:54 PM

    I didn’t make an assumption, I asked a question, the tone of which you may not have liked, but is is still a valid question.

    I also asked you “Why would it be diligent to assume an employee is guiltless?”, I notice you didn’t answer.

  • McGrath

    “intended to strengthen the company’s position against their employee.”

    Posted by Rory on Dec 05, 2008 @ 11:28 PM

    As opposed to blindly accepted that the employee is blameless and the employer is always the aggressor, which is the suggestion of this particular thread?

    If you believe unequivocly in the innocence of employees, then I strongly suggest you check your next Subway sandwich for boogers. (A general statement, not referring to Natalia)

  • RepublicanStones

    McGrath said

    “I didn’t make an assumption,”

    after he had said

    “It would be quite hobbesian, if that was indeed my view. However, the topic is asking us to make an assumption.”

    Confused? Probably not as much as he is…

    ‘Why would it be diligent to assume an employee is guiltless?”’

    Because that is the entire precept upon which western thought of justice and fairness is presupposed my dear fellow. Innocent until proven otherwise. Please do feel free to enlighten me if you have had a memorandom to the contrary….theres a good chap !

  • Bmac

    RStones

    “Have we reached a point now that pregnancy is infallible?”
    Yes, I think we have. Pregnant workers have blanket protection from discrimination.

    “If the same girl had the clap and got fired, would there still be a protest?“

    I don’t know – are STD’s and pregnancy comparable?

  • Dave

    “Because that is the entire precept upon which western thought of justice and fairness is presupposed my dear fellow. Innocent until proven otherwise. Please do feel free to enlighten me if you have had a memorandom to the contrary….theres a good chap !”

    She has been fired by her employers for breeching Health & Safety policy, not charged with a criminal offence, therefore presumption of innocence does not apply. She is demonstratively guilty of being an incompetent employee – hence her dismissal by her employers (which she has not legally challenged as being unfair). You, on the other hand, are presuming that her employers are guilty of unfair dismissal.

  • Bmac

    demonstratively?????

  • McGrath

    Because that is the entire precept upon which western thought of justice and fairness is presupposed my dear fellow. Innocent until proven otherwise. Please do feel free to enlighten me if you have had a memorandom to the contrary….theres a good chap !

    Posted by RepublicanStones on Dec 06, 2008 @ 01:13 AM

    So the pickers outside Subway assume the employer is innocent? By this thread, Im supposed to go join them? Try again….theres a good chap.

  • Dave

    “demonstratively?????”

    She was fired for being incompetent in performing her duties. If she feels that she was not incompetent, then the onus is on her to challenge her employer’s judgement about her competence. If she fails to do that then her future employers will not assume that the judgement of her former employer was unfair – much like your insurance company won’t assume you are a good risk if your mow down pedestrians while driving over the legal alcohol limit. It isn’t rocket science.

    By the way, the idiot trade unionists would do well to consider how many employees will have to be let go if they successfully disrupt her former employer’s place of business.

  • McGrath

    It would be quite ironic if some of the investors / employers who were getting their arses sniffed by Pete and Marty over in the States last week, were to read some of the posts made by liberal socialists on this thread. Its quite indicative of the litigious attitudes of some employees in NI. Employment is not a democracy.

  • RepublicanStones

    So in McGraths world someone is guilty until proven innocent, nice.

  • Mack

    McGrath – “Its quite indicative of the litigious attitudes of some employees in NI. Employment is not a democracy”

    I would read it the other way round. The problem with this campaign, if there is one, is not that it is litigious, it’s that it is being waged on the streets.

    It is surely up to a tribunal or a court to judge – and compensate the aggrieved and fine the guilty if neccessary – not the unions and claimants social support network. Effectively, the business has been tried and convicted by the campaigners. It’s punishment their campaign outside it’s premises which will damage it’s trade & reputation.

    Ideally, this should be settled via the proper available remedies. If it’s a case of serious abuse and all other routes have been exhausted then limited protest is probably reasonable.

  • Dave

    I agree with that. Instead of contesting the actual reason that was given for her dismissal, the militants have ignored it and instead substituted an alleged reason (and one that is deliberately emotionally loaded).

  • Jo

    The actual reason for the dismissal was detailed in my earlier post. She had “lost the confidence” of her employer for a single instance of her boyfriend picking her up from work – after she told her employer she was pregnant.

    It is not unreasonable for a young woman to want to be accompanied home by her partner late at night in Gt Victoria Street.

    The employer should and indeed did facilitate this arrangement – before she told him she was pregnant. There is no evidence whatsoever of incompetence and incompetence is not mentioned in my earlier post which detailed the employers reasons for dismissal. There is, apparently, a case for the employer to answer and to be honest, I hope she takes him to the cleaners.

  • Mack

    Jo – taking the facts as you describe them at face value, so do I. But why is she fighting this on the streets not in the courts?

  • Dave

    “One month after she informed the employer that she was pregnant Natalia was sacked.” – Jo

    And your argument is that informing her employer that she is pregnant grants her immunity from complying with the company’s Health & Safety policy?

    You are implying that she was fired (a rather long time after) her employer’s became aware that she was pregnant, yet by her own claim, her employer’s would have had the opportunity to fire her before that duration.

    You haven’t established any link whatsoever between her pregnancy and her dismissal. Instead, you are assuming a link. Yet why should there be one? The company will recover her statutory maternity leave payments from the state, so there is not, contrary to your implicit assertion, any financial reason for the company to dismiss her. Nor is her work skilled, and the company would easily replace her with any other 19-year-old immigrant, so there is no motive present for firing her for that reason either.

    That just leaves the company’s stated reason (which she has failed to challenge as unfair via the relevant judicial avenue), i.e. that she was fired for incompetence.

  • Jo

    There is no mention of incomptence in the employers statement – it is stated that she lost confidence due to allowing her b/f on the premises. This is not incompetence and does not merit dismissal.