A whistle-blower who won an unfair dismissal case after raising health and safety concerns at work has yet to receive a penny of the £26,000 compensation he was awarded by an employment tribunal.
Mohammed Jahangir started working as a machine operator for a company called Sim Felt Ltd in March 2004, which manufactured felting material for covering springs in sofas and beds.
He became increasingly concerned about health and safety at the start of 2012 and raised issues including there being no toilet, problems with welding on a punch machine and a guard on a cutter machine being propped open with wood.
In his witness statement for the tribunal, held in Leeds in July 2013, he said: “When cloth stuck in the cutter blade I had to pull it out and to do that I had to lean under the guard. I was frightened that it might drop down on my head.”
Mr Jahangir, a father-of-four, approached Girlington Advice and Training Centre and was advised to put his concerns in writing, which led to some of the issues being addressed, but not all.
He wrote again to the company in February 2012 and the Girlington centre wrote to the Health and Safety Executive in March of that year.
That led to an HSE inspection of the premises at Unit 18, Swinnow Grange Mills, Stanningley Road, Pudsey, and an improvement notice being issued.
In April 2013, Mr Jahangir was called into a meeting with his boss, Khalid Javed Ali, and a man he had not met before. He was told the company had changed to Bargain Lines Ltd and he was dismissed.
The following July an employment tribunal found Mr Jahangir had been unfairly dismissed and awarded compensation of £26,656. But in September 2013, the company operating out of Swinnow Grange Mills changed to Fibre Tex Ltd.
Companies House lists Ahmed Nisar Batha as the director of both Bargain Lines and Fibre Tex, and Mr Jahangir believes that was the other man present when he was sacked.
When Mr Jahangir visited the premises in January of this year, he saw some of the same staff working there, using the same machinery.
Mr Jahangir’s wife Nasreen Bi said winning the compensation had made the couple feel good.
“We were really, really surprised. We were over the moon especially because Mohammed represented himself and was not able to speak English. We were really happy.
“He was more happy about winning than the money,” she said.
But when the couple, of Westfield Road, Manningham, Bradford, found out the company had changed, they realised they would not get their compensation.
Val Rowland, who handled the case at Girlington, said once companies ceased trading, tribunal payments would not be made. “The employee gets left with nothing,” she said.
Companies House lists a proposal to strike off Bargain Lines Ltd – limited companies can apply to close down by getting it ‘struck off’ the Companies Register, if it meets certain criteria.
Miss Rowland said the award should have been paid within 42 days.
“After that, if it’s not paid, it’s put into the hands of the High Court bailiffs, but we suspect there are going to be difficulties because the company has now changed its name,” she said.
The Telegraph & Argus was unable to speak to Mr Batha, despite visiting Fibre Tex Ltd and the home address listed for him at Companies House.
But Sabiha Khan, who does paperwork for Fibre Tex Ltd, responded when the T&A left contact details at the company. She said it was not the same company as Bargain Lines Ltd and was owned by somebody else. “There’s a few issues that we have as well,” she said.
‘Third of awards are never received’
A Government report published in November 2013 said 35 per cent of awards made at employment tribunals are not paid and 16 per cent are only part paid.
A little more than half of claimants receive full or part payment without having to resort to enforcement, said the report.
Employment solicitor Mike O’Donoghue works at Bradford Law Centre which offers a free legal advice service to people.
“The most common reason given by people for not getting paid was that the company had started trading under a different name,” he said.
He said people not getting paid was quite a common problem, but no worse in Bradford than other areas.
“I wouldn’t say Bradford has a monopoly on it, but we do come across quite a few cases.”
Mr O’Donoghue said the introduction of fees for tribunals and the stopping of legal aid for such cases would mean fewer people may pursue cases.