Transport union RMT has hailed an employment tribunal ruling that bus company Arriva unlawfully discriminated against two employees because of their RMT membership
Marcus Farr and Len Graves were harassed, disciplined and threatened with the sack by Arriva because they wore high visibility vests with the union logo on.
The tribunal ordered Arriva to pay the men compensation, including aggravated damages to Mr Graves, and to pay the union its legal costs. The RMT instructed Thompsons to act for the two members.
RMT officers always considered that Arriva singled them out because they were union representatives. London South Employment Tribunal agreed, ruling that the reason the firm did this was to penalise them for being RMT members and to deter them from taking part in RMT activities.
The members, who are based at South Croydon garage, were repeatedly pulled up by their managers for wearing orange vests with the RMT logo on the back instead of the Arriva branded yellow ones on the basis that this was unauthorised uniform.
Mr Graves was suspended for wearing the vest and the stress of this resulted in him becoming ill. Arriva managers ordered that he be paid only statutory sick pay while he was off sick. When he complained he was told the issue could only be resolved if he agreed to an immediate fact finding interview about the vest and agree not to wear one again which he reluctantly agreed to and he was subsequently issued with a disciplinary sanction as was also the case with Mr Farr.
The men wore the RMT vests rather than the company ones to ensure that members knew who they were and could come to them for advice. Other drivers had worn their own high visibility vests while on duty without complaint, including one with a “Himmler” on the back and one with his initials shaped into a ‘swastika’ on his vest.
The members pursued their claim against Arriva for subjecting them to detriment on grounds of their trade union activities, which is against the law. The tribunal agreed unanimously that Arriva had acted unlawfully. It said: “The purpose of the acts complained of was to penalise the claimants for being members of the RMT and / or to deter them from taking part in the activities of the RMT” and ordered that Mr Farr be paid £7,000 compensation and Mr Grave £9,000. An award for costs was also made against Arriva.
Marcus Farr said: “I am incredibly relieved that the employment tribunal has confirmed what I had felt all along, that I was being purposefully targeted by controllers who appeared to have a set campaign against me for no other reason than the fact that I wore a vest with the words RMT on it and they sought to limit the influence of my union.”
Len Graves added: “The whole issue has been a great ordeal which caused me to become ill with stress and high blood pressure. I tried to challenge the charges brought against me at each stage of the process but Arriva refused to act reasonably or properly investigate my points. I can only hope that this decision puts an end to their unreasonable and unlawful behaviour. ”
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Arriva had no problem in tolerating bigotry and fascist messages but was not able to tolerate the three letters “RMT”. This decision should send a clear message to employers that we will not tolerate our members being singled out because of their trade union membership.”