Ex-employee had no choice but to carry out ‘racist instructions’, tribunal told

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  • Gary Jeshel Forrester
    Australian-New Zealand musician and writer

A former employee of a litter enforcement contractor has claimed “he had no choice” but to comply with the “racist” instructions of his bosses.

Gary Forrester, 39, told an employment tribunal the “dog-eat-dog” nature of the business meant staff targeted ethnic minorities with fixed penalty notices (FPNs) as they were less likely to challenge them.

The former team manager, who was usually stationed in the London borough of Barnet, said that on one occasion Waltham Forest was “flooded” with officers as Kingdom had not enforced enough penalties there.

However, he alleged the company was still charging the council for its services, despite not being in Barnet.

Mr Forrester, who worked for Kingdom from February 2020 until November 2020, claims he was wrongly dismissed for blowing the whistle about the alleged activities.

He told East London Employment Tribunal on Friday: “The contract in Waltham Forest was up for renewal and the dog-eat-dog nature of what (Kingdom) does meant we needed to make sure we got enough tickets in time.

“All of us were sent to Waltham Forest, which was pretty much flooded with officers from other areas as well.

“We were told ‘we can’t lose this contract’, we need as many as possible, ‘I don’t care how we get them as long as we get them’ was the message.

“It wasn’t about ticket numbers, but payment of the tickets, so we never went for people who were dressed smart and would know the law.

“They wanted people who wouldn’t contend their tickets, mainly those from ethnic minorities and disabled people.”

Mr Forrester alleged that Kingdom still charged Barnet Council – where they were meant to be – “taxpayers’ money”, as if workers were carrying out tasks there as normal.

He also said his sacking came after the firm alleged he posted racist and transphobic messages in a staff WhatsApp group.

He denies the allegations, which were upheld by an internal Kingdom investigation, the tribunal heard.

Mr Forrester seeks re-instatement if the Kingdom chief executive issues him an apology and assurances that the alleged practices will stop, or compensation and reimbursement of costs as an alternative option.

He said: “I had no choice but to comply with the racist instructions, we were told to get the tickets.

“Everybody has a right to say no but I would have lost my job during a pandemic.”

A fellow sacked employee, giving evidence at the tribunal, said he was asked to target “more blacks” and “more Asians”.

A witness statement by Muhamed Ali Kaser said: “We were specifically ordered to target disabled groups and ethnic minority groups and even people who were attending funerals and were grieving for their loved ones.

“For example, we were told to target ‘more blacks’ and ‘more Asians’ in general when issuing tickets, as they would not understand UK law and would be less likely to appeal any fine issued to them by us.”

He said staff were set targets for the number of penalties imposed, which they had to meet to avoid losing their job.

Mr Forrester also claims he was a victim of direct race discrimination, the tribunal heard.

In a response document presented to the tribunal, Kingdom’s lawyers disputed the claim that Mr Forrester was a whistleblower, and denied ever targeting ethnic minorities.

The firm said: “Any disclosures which were made were made cynically in order to attempt to prevent a legitimate disciplinary process and were therefore not in good faith.”

Kingdom denied Mr Forrester was unfairly dismissed or that there was any link between the alleged protected disclosures and his dismissal.

It added the firm had a whistleblowing procedure and investigates “robustly” and “adheres fully” to protecting people who make protected disclosures.

A Barnet Council spokesman said: “We are aware of one of the allegations and this has already been investigated by our corporate anti-fraud team.

“However, there is some new information we have been made aware of that we will now investigate and as such cannot comment further at this time.”

The tribunal continues and will resume on February 10.

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