A GROUP of victimised firefighters in Hampshire have won reinstatement after a landmark legal ruling last week. The Basingstoke Four were sacked five years ago. Senior management in the brigade and the fire authority were determined to break the firefighters' union organisation at the Basingstoke station.
The four were accused of breaking disciplinary procedures by 'sending colleagues to Coventry' and were sacked under the anti-harassment policy. 'The disgusting thing was', says Barry Kearley, one of the four, 'that it was us who were confronting harassment. There was a lot of racism on the station and in the brigade. We said it was unacceptable. We were starting to change the whole culture.'
'The same was true over sexism and the way new recruits were treated,' says Bernie Ross. It took two and a half years of an appeal before John Prescott's department ruled last year that there was no case to answer. But Hampshire brigade refused to reinstate the men. Last week a high court judge ruled that the brigade had no alternative but to give them their jobs back. He also ordered that they should now be given three years back pay, plus 9 percent interest a year.
'It's a magnificent victory,' Steve Ross told Socialist Worker. 'We were only in there for an hour or so. The brigade's case just fell apart. 'It should never have got to this. Our victory should encourage people facing all sorts of attacks in the wake of the national dispute last year.'