TWO assistants at a Woolworths store were sacked because they ate two ''pick and mix'' sweets, an industrial tribunal heard yesterday.

Ms Vicki McIntrye, 21, and Ms Sharron McConville, 20, were dismissed for gross misconduct after a security guard caught them eating sweets that were about to be put in the waste bin. The store sacked the two women for eating one ''Mr Blobby'' jelly sweet and one ''Fizzy Cola Bottle'', each worth around 2p.

The tribunal heard that it was company policy to sack any employee caught eating sweets belonging to the shop, even if the sweets were about to be thrown out.

Mr David Duncan, store manager of Woolworths in Lochee, Dundee, said stealing a sweet was gross misconduct and he had to follow company policy and sack the women.

He said: ''Every sweet stolen by them is money taken from the profits of the company. I had to sack them. They were in a position of trust and I could never have trusted them again after that incident.''

Ms McIntyre and Ms McCon-ville were both unemployed for three months after being sacked. They claim they were dismissed unfairly and want compensation for loss of earnings.

The tribunal, in Dundee, heard that the two women picked up ''pick and mix'' sweets from the floor and put them in two bags. They then weighed the sweets and logged them in the ''shrinkage'' log.

However, before putting the bags in the bin, the women ate two of the jelly sweets and were reported to the manager by the store security guard.

Mr Duncan sacked them on July 27 last year. Area manager Terry Kelly later threw out their appeal .

Ms McIntyre, of Eskdale Avenue, Dundee, who was paid #330 a month for working 20 hours a week, said: ''I am very embarrassed that I ate a sweet that had been on the floor. But I never expected to be sacked for it.

''If the sweet had been for sale that would have been a different matter entirely. But it was going to be thrown out and I didn't see it as theft.

''Everyone in the shop ate shrinkage sweets. I knew it was against company policy but I didn't think it applied to our store.''

Ms McConville, of Buttars Road, Dundee, told the tribunal that Easter eggs and chocolate Santas had been put in the canteen by the manager for staff to eat.

However, Mr Kelly denied that staff at the Lochee store were allowed to eat damaged or out-of-season sweets.

He added: ''We made it company policy in 1995 to stop staff from eating any sweets. They aren't even allowed to eat their own sweets on the shop floor.

''I think that is fair. It starts with one sweet then it goes on to a handful of sweets and, before you know it, they are stealing CDs.''

Ms McConville, who was paid #500 per month in her full-time job, told the tribunal: ''Hazel Watt, the assistant manager, said that if we wanted to eat sweets off the floor that was up to us, but she wouldn't do it.

''She even came back later just to clarify what we had done was wrong. I thought that was the end of the matter.''

The tribunal continues next week.