Richard North, 08/11/2012  

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The case of Arthur Redfearn, the bus-driver fired for being a BNP councillor, is an interesting one, and it certainly has the local paper in a tizz.

Working for seven months as a driver's escort and then a driver, taking vulnerable adults and children to schools and day centres in the Bradford City Council district, he was fired by his employer Serco in 2004, shortly after he had won a seat on Bradford Council, representing the Wibsey ward – home of this blog.

His then employer, then and now, is nothing if not strong on corporate BS, claiming to "build respect by operating in a safe, socially responsible, consistent and honest manner". "We never compromise on safety", it says, "and we always operate in an ethical and responsible manner". In like vein, it drools on: "We listen. In doing so, we treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves and challenge when we see something is wrong. We integrate with our communities".

When Redfearn took the company to the undustrial tribunal, however, Serco had claimed that their former employee's activities had been disruptive and offensive to Asian employees. These claims rather fell apart, though, when he lined up ranks of Asian colleagues as character witnesses, also proving that there had been no complaints against him.

After they had affirmed that Redfearn had done nothing whatsoever to cause offence, the company rather forgot about the "honesty" bit and changed their story midstream. They then claimed it had fired Redfearn on "health and safety grounds", on the basis that his continued employment could cause considerable anxiety among Serco's passengers and their carers, and there was a risk vehicles could come under attack from opponents of the BNP.

Accepting the rather bizarre claims that a man should be fired because people (aka criminals) might attack his vehicle, the tribunal found for Serco. In 2005, though, Redfearn successfully appealed against this decision at an appeals tribunal.

Then, in a classic demonstration of just how corrupt our justice system has become,  the Court of Appeal found for Serco, on the new grounds that Redfearn's complaint was of discrimination on political grounds and not racial grounds, which fell outside of the anti-discrimination laws. He was refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords.

That left Redfearn with no other option but to appeal to the ECHR in Strasbourg, and the ruling has now come down that the British Government was in breach of the convention on human rights, by not intervening on the basis of Article 11 - freedom of assembly and association – the seven judges coming to the conclusion, on a 4-3 majority, that Redfearn had been fired solely because of his membership of a political party.

It was further declared that: "The court was struck by the fact that he had been summarily dismissed following complaints about problems which had never actually occurred, without any apparent consideration being given to the possibility of transferring him to a non-customer facing role".

Prior to his political affiliation becoming public knowledge, neither service users nor colleagues had complained about Redfearn, who had been considered a "first-class employee", the court said.

From the local Telegraph & Argus though, little of this bizarre story actually emerges. Yet Labour MP for Bradford South, Gerry Sutcliffe, is allowed to criticise the decision – and Redfearn is not given an opportunity to comment.

Our-freedom-loving MP says that the court failed to take into account of the district’s "diverse community" and thinks Serco "did the right thing" in sacking Refearn. He adds: "I'm sad the European Courts have decided to overturn the ruling because it's not reflective of the make-up of our community where we want to have tolerance of all society. It will re-open old wounds that don't need to be opened".

So, in the interests of "tolerance of all society", Mr Sutcliffe believes it entirely in order for BS Serco to lie through its teeth, and that there should be no tolerance for Mr Redfearn when he joins an entirely legal political party.

Not content with that, the newspapers launches into its own diatribe, declaring that "it cannot be right for the Strasbourg court to be able to cast aside the legal judgements made in this country that ultimately upheld the decision by Serco to dismiss Arthur Redfearn". Note .. not judgements in general - just this one.

The British legal system, it says, "decided that the company were within their rights to sack him because of his membership of the Far-Right party and many would rightfully argue that our courts should be sovereign in this matter".

But for the paper and its Asian owners, "the real question" is whether the company should have been allowed to dismiss someone for holding and representing views which could clearly cause offence to his passengers and their families, "particularly as a number of them were Asian". And the answer, the paper says, "must surely be a resounding Yes"  - although, presumably, it is happy for white trash to be offended.

Fortunately, the Telegraph & Argus is not the law round here, and neither is Jerry Sutcliffe. And those who would wish that UK law was sovereign need also to accept that that, without an updated Bill of Rights and a constitutional court to protect our rights, it would be unsafe to allow British Courts – and even MPs – supreme power.

Whatever one might think of the BNP, and however unhappy it is that we are subject to the rulings of the ECHR, the Court found that: "A legal system which allowed dismissal from employment solely on account of an employee's membership of a political party carried with it the potential for abuse and was therefore deficient".

That is the issue here, and as long as our courts and political system can't deal with that, then we need an institution that can.


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