Blogging binman to keep fighting for right to write

Share this article

A SACKED binman who lost an unfair dismissal claim against the council over his online posts today said he would continue to fight for freedom of speech.

&#149 Sacked council employee Paul French has lost his claim for unfair dismissal

Paul French, 50, worked for the city council for 11 years and said bosses "trawled" through websites to spy on his conversations after they suspected he was slamming them on the Evening News website.

At an employment tribunal in Edinburgh, he admitted "attacking" the council during the ongoing bin dispute but said he did so as a taxpayer rather than an employee. But employment judge Joseph d'Inverno dismissed Mr French's claim, deeming the dismissal reasonable.

Speaking after the judgement, Mr French said he was "not surprised" by the decision but vowed not to "let it rest" and added he would consider an appeal.

"Although I lost, I think there is still a question about civil liberties, about whether you can speak out (against your employer] and it also calls into question the right to write into newspapers," he said.

The tribunal heard Mr French sent a letter to the Evening News and quoted an article in which he and colleagues spoke out about alleged pay cuts, leaving comments online under the name "Paul the bin man".

At a disciplinary hearing in March, while suspended, Mr French first denied he was "Paul the bin man", which bosses suspected, but later confessed during his three-day hearing.

The local authority claimed his online posts undermined the organisation and caused him to commit gross misconduct. Even after Mr French - who was seeking reinstatement - was sacked, he continued to comment on developments within the council.

He defended the action, saying the comments were on "all sort of things, including the national government".

He was sacked for acting outwith the council's code of conduct.

The hearing was told that the first time Mr French, of Saughton Mains Street, had seen the council's code of conduct was at the March disciplinary meeting.

He said: "I do not believe my misconduct would fall in the gross misconduct category - it should have been dealt with in another way. I should not have lost my job."

Christine Livingstone who appeared on behalf of the council, said: "Mr French was dismissed, not only because of his letter, but because of hundreds of blog entries, some of which undermined council officials and, in particular, deputy leader Steve Cardownie."

In a written judgment, employment judge d'Inverno said: "The tribunal unanimously concluded that Mr French's complaint of unfair dismissal and sex discrimination fell to be dismissed."

Paul the Binman

Paul the Binman has been one of the most vocal critics of the council, both online and in letters to the Evening News . . .

&#149 After it was revealed the bin dispute had cost 5.4 million, "Paul The Binman" commented on our website: "Ask Mr Turley how this 'small figure' compares with the millions set aside to offset the challenges from low-paid female staff who will still see themselves low-paid after the implementation of the single status."

&#149 Following a story about councils looking to share services, he said: "I'm in favour, just think of the savings in councillors needed."

&#149 And responding to comments against bin men by another online poster in August, he said: "You must work for management to keep coming out with all the half truths."