Belfast Telegraph

Boss attacked lorry driver who refused to work illegally, tribunal told

Tribunal: John Hurson
Tribunal: John Hurson
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

A former lorry driver for a Co Armagh-based food transport company has told an employment tribunal he was "assaulted" by his manager as "punishment for not driving illegally".

John Hurson (49) said he raised issues of "illegal driving practices" in a text message sent on November 30, 2017, just days before he was allegedly assaulted by his manager Dave Malcolm.

The HGV driver is claiming constructive dismissal by Agro Merchants Group Ltd, which has a branch in Lurgan.

He alleges he suffered detrimental loss by reason of a public interest disclosure.

His flagging of illegal practices was investigated by Tesco, which forced the haulage firm to introduce changes.

Representing himself, he told the tribunal in Belfast that he was forced to resign on August 4 last year after seven months off work following the alleged assault.

Disciplinary proceedings ended with Mr Malcolm being given a final written warning.

Tribunal chairman Brian Greene heard the firm's then HR manager Laura Casey offered Mr Hurson a meeting with Mr Malcolm in an attempt to "clear the air", but the claimant chose not to take up this invitation.

Mr Hurson said he had been "fearful of going back to work and fearful of Dave Malcolm".

The claimant told the tribunal he believed the company had attempted to cover up the matter through its handling of an internal investigation and that his grievance process was "corrupted" in an attempt to "disadvantage" him.

However, barrister Barry Mulqueen, representing Agro Merchants Group, said if the claimant genuinely believed what he was telling the tribunal, he would have included it in his witness statement.

Mr Hurson later accepted that he had no evidence of this.

Mr Mulqueen said his claims centred on the fact that he was "upset" at how his former employers dealt with Mr Malcolm.

"This is all part of your imagination as you believed that Dave Malcolm should have been dismissed, and because he wasn't, you have continued with the complaints that have led to this tribunal", he said.

Mr Hurson has referred to a series of text messages he received while he was in Luton in late 2017, instructing him to carry out four collections before getting a ferry from Cairnryan to Larne.

Mr Hurson said this was not possible within 15 hours and claimed he was expected to drive back to Lurgan despite exceeding his legal driving limit.

This was disputed by Mr Malcolm, who said the claimant could have done the deliveries within the required time but had "refused to do so".

"When Mr Hurson was communicating that he was not going to the job, he still had legal time to do the collections," Mr Malcolm said.

"It would have been very tight, but he would have just about made it. He was a professional driver who knew his time and could have used his own initiative to do the collections. It is not for our planners to micro-manage the drivers - sometimes they have to think for themselves."

The tribunal continues.

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