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12 Apr 2022

Josiah Mortimer, MyLondon

UK: Union files for compensation against factory supplying Waitrose & Sainsbury's, after migrant worker's fingers are 'severed' in accident

See all tags Allegations

"London factory worker who lost tips of fingers in accident couldn’t get them reattached as bosses ‘threw them in the bin’", 12 April 2022

An Ealing factory worker making sushi for major British supermarkets says bosses threw away the tips of two of his fingers after an industrial accident - and then suggested he book a Bolt taxi rather than call an ambulance. Viraj Kakadia works at the Taiko Foods factory in Acton (Ealing), which provides sushi for brands including Waitrose and Sainsbury's.

In January, he was using a machine to cut peppers for sushi while wearing just one of the two steel gloves Viraj’s union claims was available that day to protect workers. On trying to restart the machine his fingers became trapped - leading to two of his fingers being severed.

Instead of calling an ambulance, bosses suggested he called a Bolt taxi, which took Viraj to hospital...the medical team asked him where his fingers were - only for the factory to inform him that they had disposed of them, the union says. Viraj is now permanently missing parts of two of his fingers. The company has not denied they disposed of his finger tips and a source close to the company confirmed this was the case.

The GMB is now filing for compensation over “negligence” which could be worth upwards of £20,000 if successful. One union official called the case “harrowing” and has put in multiple grievances over the firm’s handling of the affair...Viraj, 27, originally from India, speaks little English and works six days a week at the factory.

Mr Vaidya claims there was no sensor or safety guard on the vegetable cutting machine, and alleges the cutting machine broke down several times in the week before the accident but continued to remain in use. Figures close to the company insist all workers have adequate PPE and that the machine is in working order, and that a Bolt offered the "quickest means possible" to get to hospital.

Viraj was not given sick pay for the two weeks he had to take off work, and was instead told to take it as holiday leave instead. The union says the GMB itself was forced to give Viraj emergency funds instead. Speaking through a translator, Viraj told MyLondon : “The employer is playing games with my life. If they sent the finger tips with ice with me to the hospital, I’d still have them intact today. They didn’t call an ambulance, and they haven’t offered me any support.”...

A spokesperson for Taiko told MyLondon: “...We provide each employee with thorough training and a full supply of PPE, and we ensure that all machinery is well-maintained and has the correct safety features in place.

“This was an incident to which the on site team responded swiftly and efficiently, ensuring our colleague reached hospital as quickly as possible. Our colleague will be paid in full for his leave of absence and we have reinstated any annual leave he took following this incident.”

A Waitrose spokesperson said they were looking into the issue urgently: "Worker welfare is incredibly important to us and we're really concerned to hear about this. We are investigating this as a matter of urgency with Taiko." A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “All of the products available to our customers have to be produced in a way that meets our high worker safety and welfare standards. We take allegations of this nature very seriously and we are urgently investigating with the manufacturer.”

There are more than 600 employees at the factory, with most earning the National Living Wage of around £9 an hour. The temperature in the factory is below four degrees, according to the GMB. Around half of the workforce at the factory is estimated to be from ethnic minority backgrounds with English as a second language.