Gravediggers who claimed the firm managing burial sites in Northampton fired them for blowing the whistle on serious malpractice - including having to dig up buried bodies - have lost their case.
The two men were dismissed for failing on-the-spot drug tests in August 2014, but took taken civil action against their employers Amey because both claimed their sackings were because they had raised concerns over the way the company was being run.
All their claims were denied by Amey. The company said there was no evidence to substantiate their claims.
During a three-day hearing in Bedford last October both men said these concerns included being called on to dig up bones so land could be sold as a fresh burial plot. The men also claimed they had been given unreasonable deadlines to dig plots prior to funeral corteges arriving and were bullied. One claimant alleged he had to take payment from a grieving widow during her late husband’s funeral.
Both men also said that during their employment they had been told to bury bodies in plots “below the water table”, which is against burial law as there is a risk coffins could be pushed to the surface. They also claimed that they were asked to give a questionnaire to a widow during the service to bury their husband.
But tribunal judge Michael Ord has now found in favour of Amey because he said the two claimants could not establish a “causal link” between their alleged disclosures to senior management and their dismissals.
In his findings, the judge concluded: “We find that the claimants, and each of them, were dismissed as a result of their failed drug tests, which were conducted by Medigold on behalf of the respondent following a tip-off.”
Amey says neither of the two gravediggers’ allegations throughout 2014 could be substantiated with evidence and as a result were never escalated.
The two workers’ statements given to the tribunal called into question the practices of Amey, which handles the environmental services contract for Northampton and Daventry.
A spokeswoman for Amey said: “It is untrue to claim improper activities related to the cemeteries we manage. Amey’s graveyard management operations are and have always been carried out in accordance with the law and with the sensitivity that should be afforded to grieving families.
“We take allegations of bullying and unlawful behaviour or misconduct extremely seriously. We listened to the complaints raised, investigated them in line with our policy and concluded they could not be substantiated.”