Belfast Telegraph

Polish worker: I was victim of abuse at factory

By Anne Madden

A Polish woman has described how she was sworn at in Polish and made to climb a stack of palettes at a Belfast food factory in order to reach an area to clean.

Marzena Kopowska (29) claims she was the victim of racial discrimination at Mac’s Quality Foods in Dunmurry, and treated less favourably than colleagues from Northern Ireland.

She is also claiming sexual harassment by a Polish colleague.

Mrs Kopowska, who worked at the factory for 15 months until December 2007, told a tribunal sitting in Belfast that one of her supervisors, Gerry Blaney, stacked five or six palettes on top of each other which she then had to climb up in order to clean.

The 29-year-old, who lives in Holywood, Co Down, claimed that Mr Blaney also swore at her in Polish using vulgar words he learned from a Polish supervisor, Ziggy Kaczmarek, who she claimed had repeatedly sexually harassed her.

Mrs Kopowska also claimed she cleaned a number of stores using ladders which were “too short”.

“Everything was wet and there was nothing I could hold on to,” she told the tribunal through an interpreter.

Mac’s Quality Foods, a small family-owned company that manufactures food, was represented by owner Margaret McIlroy.

Mrs McIlroy told the tribunal she was not aware of any staff climbing palettes and described how the company hired a scissor lift with guards to conduct a “deep clean” of the factory twice a year.

During cross-examination, Mrs Kopowska was asked about her statement to the tribunal saying she had complained about the swearing to Danny McIlroy, Mrs McIlroy’s son and factory manager.

However, the tribunal heard that Mrs Kopowska had not |complained.

“I did want to (complain) but I was afraid,” she said.

The tribunal continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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