Tuesday, 18 Jan 2022

Bus driver accused boss of racism for mimicking 'Scousers' sketch

Liverpudlian bus driver who was fired after he accused his Scottish boss of racism when she mimicked Harry Enfield’s ‘calm down, calm down’ ‘Scousers’ sketch, loses employment tribunal

  • Antony Ryan accused his boss of racism after they mimicked Harry Enfield’s scousers sketch
  • Liverpool-born Mr Ryan complained it was ‘racism’ and took two days off work 
  • Mr Ryan was sacked by Shetland-based coach company for unauthorised leave 
  • Employment tribunal found the jibe wasn’t racist and not a reason to skip work

A Liverpudlian bus driver working in the Shetland Isles has lost an employment tribunal after claiming his boss mocking him with Harry Enfield’s famous ‘Scousers’ sketch was a form of racism.

Antony Ryan, who grew up in the Merseyside city, felt ‘insulted’ after being told to ‘calm down, calm down’ by Margaret Robertson.

As part of Enfield’s impression, moustachioed, shell-suited and permed ‘Scousers’ would nearly come to blows before one eased the tension with the famous catchphrase ‘eh, alright, alright, calm down, calm down’.

Coach driver Antony Ryan took his employers R Robertson & Son to a tribunal after he was sacked for unauthorised leave. He claimed he was upset after a jibe about scousers.

Mr Ryan was so ‘offended’ by what he believed was a reference to this stereotype, he missed two days at work and was later sacked for unauthorised absence from his Scottish-based firm.

He then brought the company before an employment tribunal.

But his claims were dismissed as although the comment may have been ‘unprofessional’ and ‘uncalled for’, the panel ruled his race discrimination failed as he was not being mocked for his English ‘national origin’.

Mr Ryan first started working for R Robertson & Son Ltd, a coach hire service operating in Shetland, Scotland, in August 2020.

The panel heard during a grievance meeting that Mrs Robertson ‘mocked’ Mr Ryan’s accent, telling him and a colleague, Lee Cox: ‘You boys need to go and calm down, calm down.’

The tribunal, held remotely from Scotland, heard Mr Ryan was ‘extremely offended’, ‘insulted’ and believed that he was ‘discriminated against and ridiculed’.

Mr Ryan was ‘so stressed’ he went home from work and sent a text saying: ‘I feel so insulted and disgusted at present and am in no frame of mind to work at present.’

The tribunal heard he did not turn up the following day either.

He was fired in January this year for ‘inappropriate conduct’ and ‘unauthorised absence’.

Mr Ryan then made numerous claims against his former employer including discrimination on the ground of protected characteristic of race (national origin).

He argued if he had not been spoken to in an unprofessional manner, he would not have felt ‘insulted, ridiculed and offended’ and therefore would not have missed work on those two days.

But the panel – headed by employment judge James Young – concluded that it was not a medical reason to miss work.

It found he was not discriminated against as the comment only related to Mr Ryan being from Liverpool and not England.

Robertsons, based in Yell, Shetland Islands, is a popular coach company for tourists as well as islanders

It concluded: ‘The ‘catchphrase’ seemed to relate to use of the words ‘calm down, calm down’ in a Liverpool accent.

‘The discrimination claim is wholly reliant on the use of those words.

‘Mr Ryan is from Liverpool and it is because he hails from that city that he took offence.

‘I agree that the alleged comment could mock Mr Ryan as a Liverpudlian but not as an English person.

‘I do not consider that simply because that city is based in England that Mr Ryan was being mocked for being English and so mocked on account of his national origin.

‘The alleged words used could only refer to a very specific comic stereotype of a Liverpudlian and not directly or by inference a reference to national origin.

‘The comment may well have been unprofessional or uncalled for but it is not in my view discriminatory because there was no mocking of the claimant on account of his national origin namely being English.

‘The phrase used was not indicative of discrimination against English people and so the claimant could not have been discriminated against.’

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