Arthur Redfearn was dismissed in 2004 from his job as a bus driver for Serco after winning a seat on Bradford Council for the British National Party. Mr Redfearn drove people with disabilities around Bradford. He fought a long campaign for Justice with numerous set-backs. This week, however, his perseverance paid off. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in Mr Redfearn’s favour.
He had been working for West Yorkshire Transport Service for seven months, driving vulnerable adults and children to schools and day centres.
He was sacked by his employer Serco on the grounds that his views presented a health and safety risk as many of his passengers were Asian. To their shame the GMB and Unison Trade Unions joined in calls for his dismissal.
But after a long-running legal battle, the Strasbourg court said last Tuesday that dismissing Mr Redfearn from his job breached his right to freedom of association under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Disabled Mr Redfearn, who was 56 at the time of his dismissal and has an artificial leg, initially claimed race discrimination, but an employment tribunal dismissed this finding instead saying that it was on health and safety grounds as his “continued employment could cause considerable anxiety among Serco’s passengers and their carers and there was a risk that Serco’s vehicles could come under attack from opponents of the BNP”. This ridiculous ‘blame the victim’ ruling was later overruled by an appeals panel in 2005.
The following year the Court of Appeal allowed Serco’s appeal finding that Mr Redfearn’s complaint was of discrimination on political grounds and not racial grounds, which fell outside current anti-discrimination laws.
Mr Redfearn could not claim unfair dismissal as he had not completed one year’s service with the company said the Court. He was also refused leave to appeal to the House of Lords, but vowed to take his case to the European courts, with an appeal on the BNP website helping to fund his legal bills.
In its judgment the European Court states: “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.
“In fact, prior to his political affiliation becoming public knowledge, neither service users nor colleagues had complained about Mr Redfearn, who was considered a ‘first-class employee’.”
It added: “In a healthy democratic and pluralistic society, the right to freedom of association under Article 11 must apply not only to people or associations whose views are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also to those whose views offend, shock or disturb.”
“It was therefore the United Kingdom’s responsibility to take reasonable and appropriate measures to protect employees, including those with less than one year’s service, from dismissal on grounds of political opinion or affiliation.”
A spokesman for Serco said: “We are aware of the initial ruling that has been made by the European Court of Human Rights concerning the case of Arthur Redfearn and we will now review and digest the findings.”
Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented:
“Mr Redfearn has fought a long, hard battle not only for his rights but for the rights of all those who might be discriminated against on political grounds. Serco behaved disgracefully as did two Unions. Both the GMB and Unison sadly campaigned for his dismissal putting their hatred of the BNP above principles of democracy and human rights.
Our Union is unequivocal on this subject – everyone is entitled to have their human rights upheld. We are a libertarian Union. Mr Redfearn is to be congratulated for his determination and resolve. Like him, we will not rest in fighting politically inspired discrimination against workers.
The Court is not an institution of the European Union and Nationalists should reflect on the fact that Redfearn didn’t get Justice in the courts of our country. In fact he was denied leave to even appeal at the later stage.”