The binmen who were sacked twice: Union blasts council over workers '˜left in limbo' as cases '˜drag on'

A trade union boss has blasted council chiefs in South Tyneside for leaving two sacked workers in limbo '“ after overturning a decision by its own appeals panel to give them their jobs back.
Bin lorry, South TynesideBin lorry, South Tyneside
Bin lorry, South Tyneside

The two men – a bin wagon driver and a bin operative – were both dismissed last February.

One was accused of drinking on the job, while the driver was accused of knowing his crew had been drinking – there was no suggestion he himself had consumed alcohol.

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Both men, who continue to deny the accusations, went through an appeal panel process, which saw them reinstated but then sacked again when council bosses reversed a decision to reinstate them.

A third employee’s dismissal was endorsed for drinking alcohol at work.

UCATT official Wilf Flynn – who is also a South Tyneside councillor – described the year-long saga and decision to overturn the appeal decision as “unprecedented”.

He said: “It took the council months to hold the appeal, then a decision was delayed and then it was reversed. Now, they are still waiting for an end to this, I can’t believe that this is dragging on as long as it is.

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“I have never known anything like it. The appeals panel went in their favour but that decision was overturned.”

The two men are now understood to be taking the council to an industrial tribunal.

Mr Flynn said: “One bin operative, who was not re-instated, was told the decision by the appeals panel was final but for the other two men who were reinstated, it’s not. How can that be?

“It appears to be one rule for one and one rule for another. It just makes a mockery of an independent panel who based their decisions on the evidence put in front of them.”

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Mr Flynn says he believes the bin lorry crash which claimed the lives of six people in Glasgow in December 2014 – just days before the alleged drinking incident in South Tyneside – played a role in the original sacking decision.

He added: “These men have already had to wait too long.”

The panel was made up of Labour councillors Ernest Gibson, the chairman, Doreen Purvis, vice chairman, and Councillor Pat Hay. Councillor Gibson wished to make no comment on the case.

A spokesman for the council said: “As the case is ongoing, it would inappropriate to comment at this time.”

Workers who lost their jobs twice

•January, 2015: Three bin operatives are suspended after allegations two of them had been drinking on the job on December 27, 2014.

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The bin driver was also suspended – but there were no suggestion he had been drinking.

•February 2015: The three men are sacked. An appeal against the decision is lodged.

•March 2015: The Gazette broke the story about the sackings.

•September 2015: Following an appeals hearing one bin operative and the driver are reinstated by the appeals panel.

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One worker had his dismissal endorsed for drinking alcohol at work,

An email is sent to UCATT from the council confirming the panels decision.

South Tyneside Council overturn the appeals panel’s decision and the two men are sacked again.

•February 2016: The men are awaiting a date for their industrial tribunal cases to be heard.