Firefighter who spoke at Leave Means Leave rally alongside Nigel Farage was sacked from union’s national executive over his ‘pro Brexit views,’ tribunal hears
- Paul Embery was accused of undermining the Fire Brigade Union (FBU)
- Suing the union for unfair dismissal after he was sacked from National Executive
- FBU said he was never employed by the union so could not be unfairly dismissed
- Sacked after what the union saw as a ‘treacherous’ speech at a protest in 2019
A former Fire Brigade Union (FBU) leader was victim of an ‘appalling witch-hunt’ that saw him sacked from his role months after he was told to ‘be aware’ his boss would ‘come’ for him over his support for Brexit, a tribunal has heard.
Paul Embery was accused of undermining the union during a speech alongside Nigel Farage at a Leave Means Leave rally in central London in March 2019.
He is now suing FBU for unfair dismissal and direct discrimination after he was kicked off the National Executive. He argues he was sacked for his ‘pro-Brexit views’ and was victim of a ‘blatant dig for dirt’.
The FBU denied the allegations and said Mr Embery was not an employee paid by the union. His £7,025 yearly car and home office allowance did not amount to a salary, it said.
The former London regional secretary of the FBU, which he remains a member of, was removed from his post after what he claims the union saw as a ‘treacherous’ speech at a protest in March 2019.
In his witness statement, Mr Embery, who is representing himself at the tribunal held in Norwich, said reasons for his dismissal were ‘contrived, unprecedented and perverse’.
Paul Embery (pictured) was accused of undermining the union during a speech alongside Nigel Farage at a Leave Means Leave rally in central London in March 2019
‘I have always considered that the FBU’s justification for my dismissal was spurious, dishonest, and a cover for the true reason, namely my support for Britain’s secession from the EU and my increasing public profile in that national debate,’ he added.
He said his relationship with the FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack deteriorated in 2018, adding that they argued during a union meeting in January 2019.
Soon after, assistant general secretary Andy Dark messaged Mr Embery to tell him Mr Wrack ‘is looking for things to be angry about… He will come again, and soon… Think you should have the heads up.’
‘I interpreted all of this as a very clear warning that I was under the microscope and may soon be targeted,’ Mr Embery said at the tribunal hearing.
Two months later, hours before his speech at the Leave Means Leave rally, FBU’s Ian Murray told him that to speak alongside Mr Farage would be a breach of union rules.
Some 13 days later Mr Embery was told he was under investigation and six allegations were held against him. Only one complaint was upheld but he was sacked and banned from standing for office in the union for two years.
The FBU denies allegations the decision to remove him from office was unfair and discriminatory. It stated Mr Embery was not an employee of the FBU, and therefore could not be sacked for unfair dismissal.
Hours before his speech at the Leave Means Leave rally (pictured), FBU’s Ian Murray told him that to speak alongside Mr Farage would be a breach of union rules
It said all salaries were paid by his brigade and a £7,025 yearly car and home office allowance did not amount to a salary.
It argued Mr Embery – who joined the fire brigade in 1997, started at the union in 2008 and was elected as the FBU’s executive council member for London in May 2017 – was removed from his post for being ‘openly’ critical of his own union, not for his political position.
Oliver Segal QC, representing the FBU, said Mr Embery’s argument he was discriminated against because of his pro-Brexit views was ‘absurd’.
He said Mr Embery told his audience at the Leave Means Leave rally ‘my message to the leaders of my movement is if you want to stay relevant then it’s about time you put yourself on the side of the people over the establishment and big business, and you better do that damn quickly’.
This implied, Mr Segal claimed, that the FBU was on the side of big business.
Mr Embery’s relationship with FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack (pictured) deteriorated
‘Given the history of the debate internally and the public statements of the FBU, to impliedly include those senior figures as amongst those “on the side of the establishment and big business” as opposed to “of the people”, was – in the context of the political philosophy shared by them and Mr Embery – as bad as it gets without alleging criminal or corrupt activity,’ he said.
‘The claimant’s suggestion that any implied criticism of the FBU’s leadership is not the same as criticism of the FBU is sophistry.’
Mr Embery is a proponent of ‘Blue Labour’ and author of the book ‘Despised: Why the Modern Left Loathes the Working Class’.
During the tribunal hearing, Mr Segal asked Mr Embery if Mr Farage was racist and brought up an example from 2014.
In an interview for LBC Radio, Mr Farage was asked what the difference was between having a group of Romanian men and German children as neighbours.
‘You know what the difference is,’ Mr Farage replied.
In a statement following the interview he said: ‘Any normal and fair-minded person would have a perfect right to be concerned if a group of Romanian people suddenly moved in next door.’
Responding, Mr Embery said: ‘I’m always reluctant to throw the word racist at political opponents. I think it’s sometimes overused. I think the word fascist is overused.
‘Undoubtedly there are a few things Farage has said and done and things that he believes in that I would profoundly disagree with.
‘If you’re taking part at a rally, I can’t say I’ve ever heard someone in their speech disassociating themselves with other people who are sharing the same platform. They probably wouldn’t have turned up in the first place.’
The case continues.
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