Belfast Telegraph

I felt threatened by ex-Argento employee, manager tells tribunal

By Angela Rainey

Senior managers at the Argento jewellery chain have given evidence against a former employee who claims he was dismissed for refusing to padlock a disputed gate.

They appeared at the second day of an industrial tribunal at Killymeal House in Belfast yesterday to give evidence against Richard Ferguson, a former project and business development manager at Argento.

Mr Ferguson (39), from Moira, claims he was sacked in September 2016 after six weeks for refusing to padlock a gate and retain the key to prevent make-up artist Paddy McGurgan from accessing his home.

In his evidence yesterday, Argento chief Peter Boyle outlined how he had a legal duty to ensure access was properly secured as he would be "criminally liable" if someone drowned in the reservoir. He said it was "preposterous to lock a gentleman in his or out of his home" by not offering a key.

Mr Ferguson alleges that after refusing to carry out the order, he was subject to a probationary review meeting "with a view to dismissal" in a bid "to expel" him.

His claims are denied by Argento, which allege Mr Ferguson was dismissed for "gross misconduct" due to concerns over his "demeanour and attitude" and for once working from home "without permission".

Two witness statements alleged that during a dispute Mr Ferguson referred to his line manager Simon McKenna as a "vindictive charlatan". He also showed up "unannounced" at Mr Boyle's home at 8.30am.

Human Resources Manager Claire Barnes was asked to clarify an email in which she had highlighted parts of Mr Ferguson's contract, particularly the clauses which outlined how much notice he could be given before being fired and the legal procedure that would be followed to do so.

Facilities and warehouse manager Thomas Dunbar described Mr Ferguson as "threatening". He said: "I have chaired many reviews over the years but I have never seen someone behave like Richard did - he showed a striking change in demeanour.

"He stood up, pointed his finger at me and said, 'Don't you try and put words in my mouth, son. If you try to, it'll be the shortest meeting you ever attend'.

"I felt physically threatened."

The claim was strongly denied by Mr Ferguson who added: "I have no doubt that the result of that meeting was predetermined, it was a conspiracy, a sham."

The hearing continues.

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