AN 81-year-old widow is set to become one of the oldest people in the country to claim unfair dismissal after she was forced to quit her job at a DIY store.
Irene Mullenger had worked at B&Q in Bletchley for almost a quarter of a century and says she planned to carry on for many more years.
“I loved working there and I miss it badly. I’m worried I’ll vegetate if I sit at home doing nothing,” said the golden oldie checkout girl, who lives in Great Brickhill.
In a David versus Goliath-type battle, she is claiming unfair dismissal and age-related discrimination from B&Q, which is the largest home improvement and garden centre retailer in Europe.
This week her solicitor said he was prepared to take the case all the way to an industrial tribunal.
Lawyer Daniel Valentine, from Manchester, said: “I think what the company did to Mrs Mulligan was absolutely awful. She gave her all to B&Q for almost 25 years and she did not deserve to be treated in such a way.”
Irene was contracted to work 12 hours a week and for the past ten years had worked mornings only on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Friday.
The problems started when the company, which made a £161 million profit nationally last year, asked her to change her shift pattern.
She claims she was asked to work every other weekend, perform early and late shifts and be available for work five days out of seven on a four week rota basis.
The claim form reads: ‘It was put to her that if she was not prepared to agree to these changes the Respondent would move to terminate her employment’.
After failed negotiations with management, Irene was dismissed in August.
“It’s strange not working,” she said.
“I’ve worked all my life, for 64 years, and spent more than 30 years with the civil service before I joined B&Q.
“I wasn’t ready to be retired. I’m still fit and healthy and I had planned to carry on working for as long as I could.
“I always said I’d stop when I got too tired to carry on. But the fact is that I’m not tired yet.”
A spokesman for B&Q said: “Because this is an ongoing legal process we don’t feel it is appropriate to comment.”