AN INDIAN factory worker who was subjected to a lengthy campaign of racial abuse and discrimination has been awarded more than £52,000.
An employment tribunal found that management at the ConvaTec Limited plant on Deeside Industrial Park not only failed to carry out proper investigations into 45-year-old Chand Singh’s complaints but penalised him for going off sick when redundancies were later being sought.
The company, which produces medical devices, employs 450 at its Deeside plant and Mr Singh started work there as an agency worker in 2006. He was regarded as a hard worker and was promoted to line leader.
His problems began when he was moved to a new unit in November 2009 and in following months his belongings were taken from his locker and left on the floor, rubbish was placed in his locker, his shoes and overalls were left in a chute for dirty laundry, his safety shoes were filled with water and adhesive was put in the lock to his locker.
The tribunal found Mr Singh was publicly humiliated by his line manager, Sean Moloney, who read his invitation to a disciplinary hearing aloud in front of colleagues.
“Soon everybody in the unit was asking me about the disciplinary warning and looking at me like I was a criminal,” Mr Singh said. “I felt let down. My religion says death is better than dishonour.”
Mr Singh, who now works part-time as a security guard, told the tribunal Mr Moloney’s successor, David Hopwood, called him into his office, was aggressive towards him and told him: “I can suspend you now you know, you bloody Indian”, and “you don’t know how to work with British people.”
Soon after that meeting Mr Singh collapsed and was taken to hospital suffering from a suspected panic attack.
In its judgment the tribunal stated: “It is hard to imagine a more intimidating environment than believing you have been deliberately locked in a room with an angry manager, making threats about the disciplinary action he can take.
“The tribunal is satisfied it can properly and fairly infer that this act was related to Mr Singh’s race – the reference to working with ‘British’ people not a reference to working with people in general.”
They were not isolated incidents, but “part of an ongoing campaign of racial harassment by two or three employees, that persisted throughout Mr Singh’s time in Unit 35”, and it was difficult to understand why the company had not moved him to another unit as he had repeatedly requested.
The tribunal found Mr Singh had also been discriminated against when booking a holiday in India as he had been told he needed to produce much more evidence of his trip than any other employee.
Placing him on a Personal Improvement Plan (PIP) was yet another form of victimisation which counted against him when redundancies were being made.
“At first sight of the scoring criteria Mr Singh was the obvious candidate for selection, scoring as he did 20 marks less than any other employee in the pool,” said the tribunal.
“However, on closer examination, the calculation of the scores suggests decisions were made to ensure Mr Singh was selected for redundancy, rather than an objective selection criteria being applied without bias.”
Upholding the claim, the panel stated: “Mr Singh’s dismissal was an act of direct discrimination and an act of victimisation.”
He was awarded £20,192 compensation for injury to feelings, £24,238 for past losses and £6,306 for future losses, a total of more than £52,150.
After the hearing, held over several days during the past year, ConvaTec representatives said they had amended the firm’s Dignity at Work policy and all staff were undergoing training.
The company also agreed to provide a fair reference for Mr Singh when needed, confirming he was a good worker.