Chairs row fireman compensated
Published 20/07/2010 | 18:27
A fireman has been awarded £80,000 for breach of his human rights after complaining about chairs hurting his back.
Christopher Bennett, 46, a firefighter for 25 years, had protested that new £400 chairs he and colleagues were forced to use were making his back problem worse.
Mr Bennett, who suffers from arthritis of the spine, emailed colleagues in the brigade to ask if they had the same problem - and was sacked by bosses at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.
An employment tribunal found Mr Bennett, from Stockport, Cheshire, was unfairly dismissed on the grounds that his right to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act had been breached.
The service has agreed an £80,000 out-of-court settlement with his lawyers, employment and union rights specialists Thompsons Solicitors.
Mr Bennett said: "Without the support of the Fire Brigades Union I would not have been able to get justice in my case.
"I was aware that we would be breaking new ground if we could convince the tribunal to apply the Human Rights Act. I would like to thank them for backing me and my case."
Management at the authority bought around 300 of the reclining chairs in 2006, banning the use of beds in the brigade's 41 stations, which had previously been used by firemen when not dealing with emergencies while on night shifts.
Mr Bennett asked the authority to let him use his own mattress instead of the chairs, but his request was refused and he was told to use the chairs or benches in the snooker room at his station in Stockport.
He sent the email in February 2008 and was dismissed for gross misconduct and lost an appeal. However the tribunal found his email was of political and public interest in that firefighters should be alert and fit to do their job and Mr Bennett was seeking in his own way to protect public safety.