Supermarket worker sacked for drinking the wrong tea.

Is there trouble brewing or just a storm in a tea cup?

It appears that James Alden, who had been employed by the Co-operative supermarket in West Didsbury, Manchester has been dismissed for taking the wrong brand of tea from the shop shelves to drink in the staff canteen. Co-op rules are that staff may use tea bags from the shop in the canteen without having to pay for them but they must use the Co-op's own Fair Trade tea bags. Instead of taking the Fair Trade tea bags Mr Alden took two boxes of Twining's Lady Grey tea.

Mr Alden was asked to a disciplinary meeting. He was then given a formal letter, informing him of the decision to sack him. The offence regarding the tea bags was, in the words of the company, "misappropriation of company stock by taking items into the canteen without making prior payment". The Co-op claims that Mr Alden had also failed to record the ages of people over 25 buying cigarettes and alcohol. Challenge 25, as it is known, is an initiative adopted by the Co-op and staff are expected to record an estimation of the age of the person purchasing tobacco and alcohol. 

Mr Alden had worked with the Co-op for 11 years and says he has never been late or been off sick in those 11 years. In fact only four years ago he was applauded for tackling an armed raider in the shop.  He claims that the management were looking for reasons to sack him after he raised objections to a new clocking-in system.

A spokesman for The Co-operative said: “The individual concerned was dismissed from his position at our store on Burton Road following serious breaches of a number of our business procedures.

“The appeal process has been explained to him should he wish to challenge the decision.”

Mr Alden said he was looking for a job elsewhere and did not intend appealing.

We can only guess at some of the background to the story and as Mr Alden seems to have accepted the situation and is moving on so should we or are there valid points here that need to be addressed.  There are issues here that will strike a chord with many people, the feeling that because you have objected to a new policy or regime you are seen as a troublemaker and management will be on the look out for a reason to 'get rid of you'.  There is also that feeling that the management is too big to take on and is it worth it any way?

Mr Alden, certainly, did not stick to the rules and what he did regarding the tea bags appears to be no different from stealing, although whether he had intended to use the tea bags for his own personal use or if they were just taken to the canteen for general use is up for debate. Regarding the 'Challenge25' initiative, I hadn't realised that Co-op staff are obliged to log on the till the estimated age of anyone purchasing tobacco or alcohol.  I can understand them having to challenge young people and ask for identification but I would be put out to say the least if asked my age and even more put out, I dare-say, if I knew the estimated age they had recorded!


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