I’m no thief, says Uncle Toby's canteen woman

Union organiser Neil Smith and delegate Pani Ward are supporting Noelene Kershaw over theft claims made against her. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Union organiser Neil Smith and delegate Pani Ward are supporting Noelene Kershaw over theft claims made against her. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

A CANTEEN worker at Uncle Tobys, Wahgunyah, yesterday claimed her good name had been attacked after she was accused of stealing and then unfairly dismissed by her employer.

Noelene Kershaw said the accusation of stealing had been devastating. It had stripped her of her confidence and caused her to be unable to sleep.

Mrs Kershaw had worked in the staff canteen for 20 years.

“I have worked in this industry for a long time and I take pride in my work,” she said. “It’s important to me that people know I am a good person and a hard worker.”

The Wahgunyah resident said the town was a close-knit community and the allegation against her was an attack on her character.

“I can’t sleep, it’s impacted on my family, my husband,” she said.

“This has devastated my whole life because this is where I wanted to spend my career.”

Mrs Kershaw was dismissed by contractor, Spotless, last month after the accusation.

A Spotless spokeswoman said evidence, including video footage and statements from other employees, had revealed that money and goods had been stolen over a period of time.

The company also claimed she was undercharging employees when she was on cash register duty at the canteen.

The National Union of Workers has said it rejected the accusation and believed management had targeted Mrs Kershaw because of her role as a union delegate.

Union representative Neil Smith said management had previously told canteen workers that joining the union was a sackable offence.

“Spotless has no clear evidence of the theft and has not referred the matter to police,” Mr Smith said.

“The union has spoken to Uncle Tobys management and it has refused to intervene, despite staff boycotting the canteen in support of Noelene and signing a petition.”

The Spotless spokeswoman said it was disappointing to see the union claim Mrs Kershaw was targeted over union membership, which was “completely preposterous and without foundation”.

Spotless has arranged a conciliation session on May 26.

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