A mocked-up picture of Lothian Buses boss Richard Hall was at the centre of a controversial sacking of a bus driver.
The driver, who had never been in trouble with management before, spotted the joke image of Mr Hall’s head on a jester’s body on a private social media page and shared it to another closed Facebook group before deleting it.
But a screenshot of the post was shown to management and the driver was suspended and then sacked. The company refused to reinstate him despite an apology and two appeals.
The sacking, in December, sparked calls for a walk-out in protest at what union members said was just the latest example of a growing problem of bullying and harassment by management at the council-owned bus company.
Up to ten other employees were also suspended for complaining about bosses on a closed Facebook group around the same time.
Details of the case emerged as the Unite union warned a “hostile” management culture risked leading to strike action, stating industrial relations had broken down and warning buses could be taken off the street.
One colleague said the experience of the driver sacked over the jester picture showed how petty the management were.
“There was this Facebook page called Central Banter – it was a completely closed group, just drivers moaning about stuff.
“He saw this silly picture of Richard Hall which someone else had posted on another closed drivers group with the words ‘Hall enters the boardroom with yet another brilliant idea’ and he shared it on Central Banter, but deleted it 45 minutes later.
“Two days later he was suspended – one of the other drivers had taken a screenshot of it and showed it to management.He was suspended for just over a week and then they sacked him.
“It was really petty – it was just a silly joke, harmless fun. There was no need to sack him.
“He went through an appeal process and apologised and so on. Then he had another appeal. They acknowledged he had never been in trouble and had a 100 per cent work record – just the kind of driver they want. But Richard Hall wasn’t going to let him back. They said it was bringing the company into disrepute – but it wasn’t a public post, it was a closed group.”
Mr Hall was appointed managing director of Lothian Buses at the end of 2015. He had also worked for Stagecoach, Veolia Transport in Wales and Aviva in Glasgow.
A Lothian Buses spokeswoman said: “As all our staff and trade union are acutely aware, Lothian has a robust social media policy in place which offers stringent protection and support for all people within our organisation from shop floor to management and our customers and brand.
“This policy is adopted throughout our organisation and includes provision to deal with internet trolls who deliberately doctor images or post derogatory content with the sole the purpose of humiliating an intended target or individual.
“Internet trolling is extremely damaging in today’s society and Lothian have a responsibility to take such matters seriously for the sake of every single one of our employees within our business and will deal with breaches through our formal disciplinary processes.”