‘I was dismissed from Bernard Matthews after 35 years’
- Credit: Ian Burt
A worker with learning difficulties has described how he was dismissed from Bernard Matthews after 35 years.
Evelyn Cole, known as Charlie, had worked for the company at its Great Witchingham site since 1982, but the 55-year old was dismissed in March because he left the production line during a shift without permission.
Bernard Matthews said in a letter to him this was a 'serious breach of health and safety'.
But his family said he was under a lot of stress when he left the factory for a day on February 22 because his wife was ill.
'I just couldn't do it one day and I walked away from line. I had too much stress,' he said.
Three weeks after Mr Cole's dismissal, his wife Susan, 57, who he met at the factory almost 35 years earlier, died.
His brother Viv Jones said: 'It was out of character for him to leave the line. For somebody who has been there for 35 years to be treated like he has been is diabolical.'
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At the time Mr Cole was dismissed, Bernard Matthews was looking to lay off 150 workers after it was bought out of administration by new owners Boparan Private Office.
Mr Jones said his brother was an easy case to get rid of.
Three days before he was dismissed in a disciplinary hearing, the father-of-four was given a written warning by Bernard Matthews.
And on March 6, Mr Cole, who can not read or write, attended the disciplinary hearing.
'They said 'we are getting rid of you'. I said 'you can't just get rid of me'. They said 'we can'.
'I gave in my key, boots and card. They said to me that was it.
'It was unreasonable for them to do that.'
He then walked 17 miles home to Fakenham along the A1067.
Mr Cole was accused by the company of 'failure to follow reasonable management instruction', 'absent without authorisation,' and 'failure to follow clocking process and procedure'.
According to documents given to him by Bernard Matthews, he was asked if he wanted representing at the disciplinary hearing but said no. He also had a right of appeal after being dismissed.
Mr Cole said he had no problems at work until last summer when he his finger was caught in a machine at the factory and mangled.
He was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and had time off work.
A spokesman for Bernard Matthews said: 'We are fully aware of the circumstances surrounding Mr Cole's dismissal from the business. Clearly it is extremely regrettable when someone who has worked for the company for a number of years is asked to leave, but we feel that we have acted carefully and appropriately through this process.'