A delivery man who was made to resign for taking a sack of potatoes from a supermarket just before it was dumped into a skip has lost an appeal.
The Industrial Relations Tribunal upheld the policy of absolute trust between the company and the supermarket it was supplying.
Maurice Zammit took the sack just before it was dumped in a skip outside Lidl supermarket in Luqa. The potatoes were noticed inside his truck and when this was pointed out to him, he placed it back where he had found it.
As he got back to work, he was confronted by his direct superior who gave him an option: he either signs his resignation letter or he is fired.
Mr Zammit took his case to the industrial tribunal, claiming unfair dismissal.
His employer, Crampac Ltd, stood by its decision, saying the incident had breached the trust with its client, something that was sacrosanct for the firm.
The incident took place on May 13, 2009, when Mr Zammit was delivering goods to the supermarket.
As he was unloading the goods, he saw a Lidl employee coming out of the outlet carrying black bags and placing them in the loading bay.
One of them contained a sack of potatoes. He asked whether it was OK if he took a sack and the Lidl employee said he could.
The employee, Daryl Zerafa, told the tribunal that the potatoes had black spots, so his superiors ordered him to throw them away. Lidl manager David Gatt said he noticed the potatoes inside Mr Zammit’s truck. The supermarket had a strict policy that nothing, even if it was going to be dumped, could leave the supermarket premises.
Mr Zammit told the tribunal that when his attention was drawn to the potatoes in his truck, he put the sack back where he had found it.
The tribunal, presided over by Martin Fenech, noted the company’s insistence that the incident prejudiced the relationship with its client. It also took into consideration the fact that it was a Lidl employee who had told Mr Zammit that he could take the sack.
The tribunal concluded that Mr Zammit acted irresponsibly when he took the sack of potatoes, especially since he was still on the supermarket’s premises.
It ruled that the company was justified in forcing him to resign.
Lawyer Joanne Vella Cuschieri appeared for Mr Zammit.
Lawyer Matthew Brincat appeared for the company.