Ripper Street stagehand loses unfair dismissal case against Element Pictures

Labour Court confirms Workplace Relations Commission ruling against founding member of Irish Film Workers Association

A supervising stagehand on hit TV series, Ripper Street, has failed in an unfair dismissal against the producers of Sally Rooney’s Normal People and the Oscar-winning movie, Poor Things.

The Labour Court dismissed an unfair dismissal action by John Arkins against Element Pictures. Deputy chairwoman Louise O’Donnell found that Mr Arkins has failed to establish that he was at any time employed by Element Pictures in any capacity and therefore his complaint must fail.

Ms O’Donnell said the complaint was not well founded. The decision upholds a May 2020 Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruling in a case where the parties were not named.

Mr Arkins claimed that Element Film Ltd was his employer when he had worked on Ripper Street Series 4 and when he was laid off in 2016.


On behalf of Element Pictures, Hugh McDowell said Mr Arkins had never worked for Element Pictures, was never paid by the company and that Element Pictures was not the producer company for Ripper Street Series 4.

He stated that the documents opened to the court from the Companies Registration Office (CRO) support that position and pointed out that Kilternan Films Production Ltd was the firm behind Ripper Street Series 4.

Documents from the Companies Registration Office show the series was produced by Element Pictures Productions Limited which was not the firm Mr Arkins was taking the action against.

Mr McDowell argued the CRO documents showed Element Pictures Productions Limited and Element Film Limited were two separate legal entities, albeit with some crossover in terms of directors.

Andrew Lowe, joint managing director of Element Pictures, gave evidence rebutting Mr Arkins’s unfair dismissal claim. He said Element Pictures Ltd had about 44 full-time employees between cinemas and distribution and about 30 part-time staff.

He confirmed he had engagements in the past with Mr Arkins in his role as founder member of the Irish Film Workers Association and when he was a Siptu member.

Mr Arkins said he worked back-to-back for a continuous four-year period from 2012 on Ripper Street. He said he had started employment with Element Pictures in 2004, working on various productions year-on-year, and not for short periods.

It was Mr Arkins’s case that he was employed by Elements Pictures Ltd and when they did not offer him a position, he was unfairly dismissed.

On behalf of Mr Arkins, Liz Murray stated that no production company would give Mr Arkins work after he appeared before an Oireachtas committee investigating working conditions and developments in the Irish film industry.

In response, Mr Lowe said Mr Arkins appearing before an Oireachtas committee was not an issue for him.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times