Council worker sacked for comments about Zionism wins back job

A self-described anti-Zionist who was sacked from his job of more than 17 years after being filmed arguing with a protester at a rally protesting against antisemitism in the Labour party has won his job back and approximately £70,000 in damages after a judge ruled he was unfairly dismissed.

Stan Keable, a public protection and safety officer at Hammersmith and Fulham council, was videoed having an exchange with a protester who was on the 26 行进 2018 Enough is Enough demonstration.

During the discussion, Keable, who was on a counter-march with Jewish Voices for Labour, which was supportive of the then party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said “the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis”.

The footage was uploaded to Twitter by the Newsnight journalist David Grossman with the title Anti-Semitism Didn’t Cause the Holocaust and Zionists Collaborated with the Nazis and viewed almost 80,000 times.

Criticism was subsequently levelled at Keable, including from a local Conservative MP, Greg Hands, who identified him as an employee of the 劳动 council and urged it to take action. After the council leader wrote an email on 27 March calling on officials to act swiftly, Keable was suspended the same day for “offensive” comments and sacked two months later.

The employment tribunal judge heard that the council accepted Keable’s comments were not antisemitic and were a reference to the 1933 Haavara agreement, a deal between Germany and German Zionists to facilitate the emigration of Jews to British-controlled Palestine during a Jewish economic boycott of the Nazi regime.

The council also accepted that Keable, who occupied a non-political position, made the comments in a private capacity outside the workplace and did not publish them himself nor make them in a threatening or abusive manner. 尽管如此, Nicholas Austin, the dismissing officer, concluded they were widely circulated, he had been identified as a council employee, and “a reasonable person” would conclude Keable had said Zionists “colluded [or collaborated] with the Holocaust”.

然而, the judge whose ruling at first instance was upheld by the employment appeal tribunal in a judgment handed down on Tuesday, said there was no evidence that this was the way Keable’s comments had been interpreted.

她补充说: “If it was within the range of reasonable responses of a reasonable employer to dismiss an employee in circumstances where they have lawfully exercised their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, unconnected in any way to the workplace, without using language which was personally abusive, insulting or obscene, and when their views and opinions have, without their consent, been published and caused offence to some, or indeed many people, then there is a very great risk of dismissal to any person who expresses their lawful political views outside the workplace.”

She ordered the council to pay Keable his lost earnings and that he be reinstated to his job – a rare remedy, 只要 used three times in 2016-17 在......之外 9,039 unfair dismissal claims. The council appealed but a panel at the employment appeal tribunal, led by Judge Katherine Tucker, concluded: “The judge was entitled to conclude that the dismissal was unfair.”

Keable, who was expelled from Labour in 2017 and is secretary of Labour Against the Witchhunt, which was proscribed by the party in July, 说: “I want to go back to work. If I’d made offensive remarks at work, we’d be talking a different story. I’m quite willing to accept that some people were offended but that’s not a crime or a sin – it’s a necessary part of free speech.”

Hammersmith and Fulham council said: “As a public body we always expect the highest levels of conduct from our employees. We are therefore disappointed with the judgment.”

The council added that is considering its options with respect to reinstatement. If it refuses to reinstate Keable, it will have to pay him more money.

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