EXCLUSIVE: Factory worker told to book a taxi rather an ambulance while bosses made him take holiday rather than sick leave
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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. At St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, 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.
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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. GMB London organiser Hiten Vaidya said: “They should have called an ambulance. It’s the employers responsibility, and it has been totally unacceptable.” 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.” In response to this piece, a Taiko spokesperson said his annual leave entitlement would be reimbursed and he would be paid in full for his time off.
Viraj is now back at work but says the finger which lost the most flesh is “still not bending properly” and remains “very painful.” He added: “There is no amount of money for that injury that would solve it. I lost my finger. It’s not a question of money. I expect the GMB union to help and ensure this negligence doesn’t happen to anybody else in future.”
Viraj added: “The employer isn’t providing a safe working environment…The standards aren’t there. The training is not there. And it is not a trade union organised workplace. So we are standing up and protesting for our rights. They don’t treat us equally. They don’t value our work. And the jobs we do are very hard.”
“Since my accident three months ago - the company hasn’t said anything about my injuries. Why is the company not helping and supporting me?” Viraj has not yet shared the news of his accident with his family as he fears they will not be able to cope with the shock.
A spokesperson for Taiko told MyLondon: “As a national food manufacturing business, Taiko takes its health and safety obligations very seriously. The wellbeing of our colleagues is paramount. 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.
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Josiah joined MyLondon as the outlet's first City Hall Editor in October 2021, reporting on the Mayor, the London Assembly, the Met police, Transport for London, and wider London politics.
He moved to South London from Brussels in 2015, working in communications for the Electoral Reform Society, and covering Westminster politics as a freelance journalist. Originally from Cornwall, he is now also a proud Londoner. Josiah has appeared on BBC Radio 4, Times Radio, LBC and other outlets to discuss current affairs and general political chaos.
If you have an untold story - whether it's a housing nightmare, an unfair decision or a local scandal, get in touch at email@example.com or contact Josiah on Twitter.