12 March 2018
Two workers sacked for raising safety concerns at a Liverpool prison were unfairly dismissed, a tribunal has ruled.
Maintenance workers John Bromilow and Harry Wildman complained that changes to their working conditions implemented by new contractor Amey were dangerous.
For decades, they had worked in pairs when conducting tasks such as painting and decorating and making repairs at the institution, but when it took over maintenance work at Liverpool Prison in 2015, Amey instructed them to work alone.
The workers, who had over 20 years of experience conducting maintenance at the jail, explained that the new working arrangements made it easier for prisoners to steal equipment.
“I see it as a bag of tools, somebody else will see it as a bag of weapons,” Mr Bromilow, told the BBC.
Initially, Bromilow and Wildman raised their concerns through an internal grievance procedure, but when they were not heard, they told the prison governor they would be escalating the issue to the Health and Safety Executive. Two days later, Amey suspended, and then fired, the men despite both having a spotless record of service.
Employment judge Jonathan Holbrook described the employer’s actions as “extraordinary” at a ruling in Liverpool on Friday (09 March 2018), declaring the two colleagues to have been unfairly dismissed.
Jon Heath, the men’s solicitor, said: “To dismiss them for having explicitly raised those concerns is one of the more startling examples of unfair dismissal that I have come across.”
Amey’s defence in the case had been that the workers were “intent on making things difficult” by raising the safety issue, and that their persistence had “the potential to be incredibly damaging” to its public image.
There will be a further hearing in June at which the tribunal will consider whether or not the workers should be reinstated, as well as how much compensation they are owed by their employer.
Amey has been contracted by the government to conduct facilities management at 60 prisons across the UK.