Two South Tyneside binmen who were sacked after a drinking on the job probe have been reinstated – with their council bosses coming under fire for taking action against them.
Three workers – two binmen and a driver – were suspended after reports of alcohol consumption while on their rounds in the Sunderland Road area of South Shields on December 27.
This whole episode has been an absolute nightmare not only for myself but also my family.Driver of the bin wagon
Following an internal probe the two binmen were dismissed for drinking alcohol while on their round, and the driver was also sacked, although there was no suggestion he had consumed alcohol.
But a council appeals panel has seen the driver and one of the binmen re-instated.
They will now be able to return to their jobs and will be entitled to back pay from the date they were dismissed in February this year.
The third binman’s sacking has been endorsed for drinking alcohol at work.
Today it was claimed the action against the workers was “emotionally-driven” in the wake of the Glasgow bin lorry tragedy just a few days earlier.
The two men who had their dismissals overturned were represented by borough Labour councillor Wilf Flynn, in his capacity as senior shop steward with the trade union UCATT – the Union of Construction Allied Trades and Technicians.
Mr Flynn says he believes the action pursued against his clients was taken as a result of emotions running high following the Glasgow tragedy.
On December 22 in Glasgow city centre a bin lorry collided with pedestrians, killing six and injuring 15 others.
Mr Flynn said: “I don’t believe it should have ever have gone this far.
“It was an over-reaction and I believe the case was emotionally driven by the events in Glasgow, for which I don’t believe anyone has so far faced prosecution.
“My clients are tremendously relieved at this decision but the last few months has caused them a great deal of stress and they will take some time to get over that.
“My advice to them is to only return to work when they feel they are fully able to do so.”
The driver of the bin wagon expressed his relief at the appeals panel’s verdict.
He said: “This whole episode has been an absolute nightmare not only for myself but also my family.
“It should never have come to this or been allowed to have dragged on this long.
“I have always worked and always provided for my family, so to have a job I have devoted the best part of my working career to taken away from me with no substantial reasoning, you can’t even begin to explain the undue stress it has caused.
“I am glad the appeals process is now over.”
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council declined to comment on the matter.