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'I just started laughing' - Employee was paid with bucket of 5c coins by Dublin restaurant

Journal.ie logo Journal.ie 16/09/2021 Céimin Burke
a cup of coffee sitting on top of a wooden table: Rian's bucket of 5c coins © Rian Keogh Rian's bucket of 5c coins

A DUBLIN RESTAURANT that paid one of its employees with a bucket of five cent coins did not comply with payment and legal tender legislation, an employment law specialist has said.

Rian Keogh was paid €355 in five cent coins by Alfie’s Restaurant in Dublin city centre this week, a number of weeks after the student finished working for the establishment.

Keogh said he was waiting for his final pay before Alfie’s owner Niall McMahon told him it was ready to be collected at the premises on South William Street.

When he arrived to get the money, the third year UCD student said he was taken aback to find that the money was being paid entirely in five cent coins in a large bucket, amounting to around 7,100 coins. 

“I just started laughing, that’s all that I could think to do. I took a little video and sent it to my friends and went around the corner to Bar Rua. I had a pint and then went home,” Keogh told The Journal.

Rian and his curious cargo drew a flurry of questions from curious punters in the pub. After paying for his drink – with card – the student caught the Luas home. The 15-minute walk from the Luas stop to his house took around half an hour as he struggled with nearly 30 kilos of coinage.

He did not count the coins, but weighed them, finding that the total weight suggests the amount was paid in full. Each 5c coin weighs 3.92g, and Rian was owed 7,100 of them, which is 27.8kg, close to the total weight seen on the scales below which would also include the bucket. 

Employment law specialist Richard Grogan said Rian was not obliged to accept payment in that form as Alfie’s had failed to comply with the relevant legislation, which is section 10 of the Economic and Monetary Union Act, 1998.

Grogan noted that the legislation states that no one is obliged to accept more than 50 coins denominated in any single transaction. So, the bucket of coins did not comply with the act.

“You cannot pay that way. So, you can’t discharge debt in that fashion. The employee, if they wanted to, could have said ‘I haven’t been paid my wages, I’m not taking that’. They could have walked down to the WRC [Workplace Relations Commission] and the employer would have said ‘here’s the bucket of coins’ and the WRC would have said that ‘doesn’t cover it’,” Grogan explained.

If a solicitor sent out the sheriff to collect the debt, the sheriff isn’t going to take a bucket of five cent coins.

“The employee would have been able to refuse to accept that.”

a group of people standing in front of a store: Alfie's Restaurant on Dublin's South William Street. © The Journal Alfie's Restaurant on Dublin's South William Street.

It simply shows the employer who does that in an extremely bad light.

When asked about the situation, Alfie’s owner Niall McMahon said he had no comment to make and that it was a “personal matter”.

“It’s between me and that employee and that’s it,” he added.

When asked if he would pay in this fashion again McMahon said it was a “private matter”.

Julia Marciniak of the Unite union, which represents hospitality workers, paid tribute to Keogh for drawing attention to his situation and highlighting wider issues in the hospitality sector.

a close up of a bowl: The 7 100 coins weighed nearly 30kg. © Rian Keogh The 7 100 coins weighed nearly 30kg.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, that’s really the message here,” Marciniak said.

“If somebody stole your car and you never report it to the police, will someone start looking for your car? You can’t expect change if you don’t come forward. The five cents is the tip of the iceberg. He’s a really brave young man,” Marciniak added.

Marciniak, Unite’s Hospitality and Tourism Coordinator, said research from the union found that just 12.8% of hospitality workers are satisfied with both their job and their working conditions, 46% said they enjoy their job but reported that the conditions were not satisfactory and 32% dislike their job and feel pressure from both consumers and managers.

Rian has secured another part-time job working in a convenience store as he continues his third year studying economics and history at UCD. He said he plans to sort the 7,100 coins into bags and lodge it with his bank. “So, hopefully within a week I’ll have cash back in the bank instead of coins,” he said.

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