Belfast Telegraph

Lorry driver whistleblower was pinned to wall by his boss, tribunal is told

Claim: whistleblower John Hurson
Claim: whistleblower John Hurson
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A lorry driver for a food transport company has told a tribunal he was pinned against a wall by his manager after flagging illegal practices which were subsequently investigated by Tesco.

Whistleblower John Hurson (49) outlined details of a series of protected disclosures he made prior to feeling "forced" to resign from Agro Merchants Group Lurgan as he gave evidence at an employment tribunal yesterday.

The HGV driver said he first raised issues of "illegal driving practices" in a text message sent on November 30, 2017, just days before he was "assaulted and subjected to violent behaviour" by his manager David Malcolm.

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

"How is that possible within 15 hours?" Mr Hurson asked.

The assignment was amended before Mr Hurson got a boat from Holyhead to Dublin, where he was told a van would meet him with a fresh driver.

He claimed he was expected to drive back to Lurgan, despite exceeding his legal driving limit.

"You don't know if you're going to be a passenger or a driver until the van arrives," he said.

However, barrister Barry Mulqueen, who is representing Agro Merchants Group, said the claimant didn't drive the van home.

Mr Hurson outlined how he made subsequent disclosures before turning to a third party company called Expo Link which processes whistleblower claims for major clients including Tesco.

He claimed this led to a member of staff from the retail giant contacting Agro Merchant Group, which forced it to introduce changes.

The claimant said he only became aware of this information and the fact that Mr Malcolm had made a statement accepting his version of events regarding the assault in January this year.

Up until this point Mr Hurson said he had been told by director George Lee that "there was no evidence of a physical altercation" between him and Mr Malcolm.

Thomas McKearney from the Independent Workers' Union told the tribunal he was told "Mr Malcolm came from behind his desk and pinned him up against the wall".

Mr Mulqueen said the claimant's complaint is about a breach of his contractual obligations and not about a breach of the law. He also claimed Mr Hurson's "sole motive" and "obsession" is money. Tribunal chairman Brian Greene expressed confusion when Mr Mulqueen claimed Mr Malcolm - who previously accepted the claimant's account of the assault - now disputes it.

The tribunal continues.

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