Tuesday, May 15, 2012

An Unjust and Outrageous Sacking

SACKED for defending herself against attack.

PUBLIC transport workers have often been the victims of abuse and violence, particularly racist attacks. Years ago I had to intervene after three yobboes started on a Black clippie who'd had the temerity to ask for their fares, and set about an elderly white man who had gone to her aid. I managed to ram one of their heads against the side, fortunately without doing any damage to the bus, and fortunately too they decided it was their stop, and went off, making threats to get me another time. Just another Saturday night.

Of course I was younger and braver in those days and my temper was up. Having occasionally experienced bigotry and bullying when I was a kid, I hate all racists of whatever variety, and I recognised the enemy.

The bus conductress confessed that she had been tempted to swing her ticket machine at their heads, but feared losing her job if she had done that.

We no longer have bus conductors, and we are threatened with losing train drivers as well as station staff. But now I'm old I think those of us who appreciate them being around to help should take their side, against the bosses (and Boris)who want to take away their jobs, and against the backward and obnoxious types (whether lumpen or yuppie) who target them.

I agree with the posters we see saying "Don't take it out on our staff" and warning that severe penalties will be sought against those who do. But now I am wondering whether we can take London Underground seriously when it promises to look after or even take sides with its staff.

Dayna Nembhard, a Customer Service Assistant(CSA) with eight years unblemished service for London Underground, was sacked for supposed "Gross Misconduct", without any corroborated evidence, because of an incident which happened after work and away from station premises.

Dayna had finished work, and stopped at a KFC for something to eat. Unprovoked, a white female customer racially attacked her. Dayna, described by colleagues as mild-mannered, is pregnant, and feared harm to her unborn child. She sought to defend herself.

Police were called, and interviewed Dayna, but after hearing what had happened, both from her and from witnesses, they let her go without any charges.

So far, so good, even if the person who started the trouble was not charged either.

But not good enough for London Underground, it seems. An investigating manager obtained CCTV footage from KFC. An internal disciplinary panel, all white, ignored witness statements and apparently took no notice of the police explanation that a member of LU staff had been racially abused. They did not consult LU's own Race Relation Advisory board.

Dayna Nembhard was sacked, and with a "gross misconduct" charge against her will probably have difficulty getting another job.

We would not want to make too much out of one case. London Underground boasts of the diversity of its workforce, which includes black people at managerial level. But some tube workers say this is not a one-off, isolated case. In 2008 LU was found guilty of racial discrimination by an employment tribunal for sacking Jerome Bowes off the Bakerloo Line.

"RMT rep Elaine Holness, spoke out about LU’s discrimination at Jerome’s tribunal. Her white manager then put in a grievance, accusing her — a black woman — of racially harassing him! This treatment eventually cost Elaine her job.

"In 2008, RMT discovered LU was paying out an average of £4,000 a day in employment tribunal settlements. That shows that LU was systematically discriminating against and mistreating workers, paying out compensation as if it was a 'business cost'.


An RMT website reports the following resolution:

"We note the report from our Regional Organiser on this shocking case. We are appalled that London Underground has seen fit to victimise and sack a member of staff who did nothing more than stand up for herself against a racist attack while she was off-duty.

We note that there is to be a Directors' Review of this case tomorrow, and give notice that should this not lead to Dayna’s reinstatement, this union will fight this injustice with all methods at our disposal.

We therefore instruct the General Secretary to:

  • pursue this case through the full procedure agreed last year, including a meeting between himself and Mike Brown before proceeding to industrial action if necessary
  • raise this issue with our Parliamentary group
  • arrange a meeting with Dayna's GLA member, Navin Shah
  • support and resource the organising efforts of Dayna’s branch, our Regional Council, and its Black and Ethnic Minority Members’ Committee and Station and Revenue Grades Committee
  • seek maximum publicity for this case

London Transport Regional Council and branches to be advised."


There is a petition we can sign to show support for Dayna as she fighs for reinstatement at London Underground.


As an anti-racist as well as a trade unionist I have naturally signed. Compensation is not enough. Dayna Nebhard should be reinstated in her job.

As a trade unionist and socialist I have frequently supported opposition to privatisation of public services.

As a member of the public I also think we should scrutinise those who are managing the services we are supposed to own.

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