Fireman wins racism fight against employer

2011-03-05 18:04

A fireman has won a case against his employer after the employer failed to deal with racism he ­described in court as “so bad it almost feels like a religion”.

The racist incidents started in 2005 when Victor Biggar, a father of two, moved to Johannesburg from Durban.

His colleagues at the Brixton fire ­station spared none of his family ­members.

When Biggar’s sons went to the fire station swimming pool, some of his white colleagues threw dogs into the pool to scare them. Children of his white colleagues racially abused Biggar’s children, said court papers filed by Biggar.

His complaints were not addressed by two successive bosses at the fire station, forcing Biggar to take his employer, the City of Johannesburg’s Emergency Management Services (EMS), to the Labour Court for not transferring him to another department to escape the racist attacks.

EMS did not defend the matter.

The court found that EMS had taken a “mysteriously one-sided approac­h” to an incident in which ­Biggar’s sons were violently harassed and racially abused.

The court awarded him two months’ salary for EMS’s failure to prevent the racial harassment.

EMS will also have to pay Biggar a month’s salary for “unfairly discriminating” against him by taking disciplinary action against him for fighting with two white colleagues in January 2007.

The incident involved a clash ­between Biggar, his sons and two white colleagues. Biggar was beaten with a sjambok but defended himself with a knife, injuring one of his colleagues.

Judge Robert la Grange found the EMS had failed to perform its responsibility to eliminate racist conduct among its employees.

EMS has been told to “investigate any new complaint of alleged racial harassment involving its employees at Brixton fire station and initiate disciplinary action against any alleged perpetrator”.

La Grange also ruled that Biggar’s transfer request had to be ­considered after a review of ­vacant posts. Spokesperson ­Percy Morokane said EMS would abide by the ruling.

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