Bus driver 'sacked for throwing off fare dodger' loses dismissal case

A BUS driver who claimed he was sacked for throwing off a fare dodger has lost his claim for unfair dismissal.

Thomas Mason, 57, who had worked for Lothian Buses for 30 years, was sacked for gross misconduct after becoming involved in a punch-up on North Bridge with an unruly passenger.

He had been driving the N31 night bus at 1am in September 2005, when a crowd of people got on board.

One man refused to pay or leave the bus so Mr Mason and two other passengers evicted him.

He said he pinned him against a bus shelter and told him to "behave".

The father-of-five contacted Lothian Buses headquarters requesting help.

Police were called and the passenger was arrested.

Mr Mason continued his shift as normal and at the end made a note of this incident on his log.

However, by the time he returned to work, his bosses had scrutinised CCTV footage of the incident.

Although it did not show what part he had played in the punch-up, they found him guilty of gross misconduct for leaving his cab.

Mr Mason, who is now a taxi driver, was reported as saying: "I would do it again - this is how I was trained 30 years ago. I have had to put people off the bus physically in the past."

He added: "I have been sprayed in the eyes, been spat on, had eggs thrown at me and been threatened with assault on numerous occasions."

But Lothian Buses' current policy dictates that drivers should not leave their cab in such circumstances.

At an appeal hearing, Lothian Buses operations manager George McKendrick told him: "I saw no evidence of threatening behaviour from the passenger - just that he was failing to pay his fare and appeared extremely drunk.

"I believe you used excessive force in bundling him off the bus, and in the apparent skirmish in the bus shelter."

Mr Mason was backed by the Transport and General Workers Union and the case went to an industrial tribunal in Edinburgh.

He claimed it was he who was assaulted, off camera, in the North Bridge bus shelter and he argued that he had been unfairly dismissed by Lothian Buses.

The tribunal was shown CCTV footage of the incident which captures an image every two seconds.

The film showed Mr Mason "half push, half carry" the man off the bus and then enter into "an altercation".

The tribunal said Lothian Buses was right to dismiss him.

A Lothian Buses spokesman said: "As far as we are concerned the matter is closed."

Mr Mason, who was dismissed from his 23,000-a-year job, said he made repeated requests for the passenger to pay his fare but the man refused, claiming he did not have any money.

The TGWU was unavailable for comment today. The union has estimated that five assaults on bus drivers are reported every week in Scotland.