Guide dog dispute finally settled

By Ted JeoryTHE blind factory supervisor locked in a row with his employers over where to house his guide dog was celebrating last night after a deal was struck to end the dispute.

By Ted Jeory

THE blind factory supervisor locked in a row with his employers over where to house his guide dog was celebrating last night after a deal was struck to end the dispute.

Peter White said a compromise agreement reached late yesterday with Witham perfume manufacturers Beautimatic International Ltd was “just brilliant” and meant he could return to work on Monday.

The deal was brokered by Braintree MP Alan Hurst, who intervened after the East Anglian Daily Times­ raised Mr White's plight with him.

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Mr White, a bulk mix supervisor who has been with the company for 10 years, has been on unpaid leave since Friday.

He has been unable to go to work since the Guide Dogs for the Blind charity told him his guide dog, Chipps, was failing to function properly after being shut in a side room at Beautimatic International, away from human contact, for up to eight hours a day.

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The charity had identified an internal office that it felt was more suitable for Chipps to stay in while Mr White was at work.

But the company insisted that would be dangerous for both the dog as the person working there often came into contact with chemicals.

Guide Dogs for the Blind said it had monitored Chipps' progress while in the side room over a three-week trial period.

It found the dog had started showing signs of distress and was beginning to ignore its training. As a result, the charity said it would not allow any other dog to return to the factory under those circumstances.

Under the new deal, Mr White, 59, and Chipps will now be together for a substantial part of the working day. He will also be paid in full for the past week.

A statement issued after the meeting said: “The existing room identified to house the guide dog will be adapted as an office for Peter and Chipps so that Peter can carry out his duties and that the guide dog can be with Peter for a large part of his time at work.”

The two-hour meeting yesterday was between Mr Hurst, Mr White, company director Barry Rughani, Guide Dogs for the Blind and the GMB union.

Factory manager, Paul Stenning, said the agreement meant one of their most valuable employees would be coming back to work.

“We're extremely pleased by it all. There is no question of any ill-feeling - the whole thing is now behind us. I just think there may have been some misunderstanding,” he added.

Mr White, from Witham, said: “I'm really staggered by it all. I was extremely worried, but this is an excellent solution.

“It will mean some coming and going for me between the new office and the main building, but the main thing is Chipps' health - I think we'll love it together.”

Mr Hurst said: “I'm absolutely delighted by it all. The talks were very constructive and I was very impressed by everyone's approach to it. I'd like to thank the EADT for helping to crystallise today's events.”

A spokeswoman for Guide Dogs for the Blind added: “It's going to be fantastic. It means that Chipps will spend even more time with Peter and have that contact that he so badly needs - it's a great weight off our shoulders.”

Ed Blissett, GMB senior organiser, also praised the company's attitude and “clean” workplace.

“I was pretty impressed by the place and hope this is the end of it - Peter is a long-serving employee and needs to be treated as such,” he said.

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