The failure of Remploy bosses to stop a senior manager referring to a member of staff by a disablist nickname showed the company’s “total lack of respect” for its disabled employees, according to a senior union official.
An employment tribunal heard that Brian Davies, a senior regional shop steward with the GMB union, had been called “Ironside” – after the television detective who also used a wheelchair.
The tribunal this week awarded Davies £6,000 compensation after ruling that he had been discriminated against under the Disability Discrimination Act by Remploy, which runs 54 sheltered factories and provides other employment services to disabled people.
Davies – who was awarded an MBE for his union work at Remploy and has worked for the company for 30 years – and the GMB had asked Remploy to stop the nickname being used at a factory in Burnley by both the factory manager and other employees, including disabled shop floor workers.
The factory manager was later moved to a different job at Remploy following internal disciplinary proceedings.
Phil Davies, the GMB’s national secretary, said senior Remploy managers allowed the use of the nickname to continue for two years and failed to tell their staff it was wrong to use the nickname.
Phil Davies said: “I think the result of this tribunal shows what the trade unions have been saying for the last 10 years – that there is a total lack of respect [for their disabled staff] from senior management.”
And he said the failure of senior managers to “comprehend how offensive it can be” to use such nicknames showed the need for disabled people to be running the company.
He added: “All the people that made the decisions and would not act in this case over a two-year period were non-disabled people.”
A Remploy spokesman said: “We concur with the tribunal’s findings. I would definitely dispute that there is a lack of respect for any employee. It was obviously a regrettable case and disciplinary action was taken against the person concerned.”
He declined to comment further, but added: “We do not want to get in a debate over this with the union. We accept the tribunal’s decision and apologise to Mr Davies.”
Remploy’s future is still in doubt after the government’s review of quangos last week postponed a decision on whether it would be scrapped.