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Fri 6 Feb 2004

"Mystifying, irrational, unreasonable, unfair, cynical, spurious, aggravated and illegal"

Employment Tribunal finds race discrimination in Glasgow City Council Asylum Project

The Employment Tribunal in Glasgow delivered a scathing attack on the employment practices of Glasgow City Council yesterday when it held that UNISON Scotland member Kuldip Dhesi experienced race discrimination in his application to the Council's Asylum Seeker Project.

The tribunal issued a damning judgement on a series of council failures as various managers failed on repeated occasions to follow basic policy or the requirements of discrimination law. Kuldip Dhesi, 42, was already an established and effective senior manager at the council when he applied to work with asylum seekers.

His rival was a white woman with no comparable management experience but who shared an office with the chair of the recruitment panel.

The tribunal accepted Mr Dhesi's core claim that the recruitment panel fiddled the scores to boost her application despite the fact that she was unconvincing at interview.

Bizarrely, the panel chair claimed that Mr Dhesi didn't understand work with asylum seekers, and admitted deducting marks from him when he said that race issues were key to the success of the project. He also penalised Mr Dhesi's aspiration to help asylum seekers with benefit and employment issues.

At the time of the interview asylum seekers had the equality, employment and benefit rights Mr Dhesi described.

The tribunal decided the panel's position was mystifying and that race discrimination was the only appropriate finding. The tribunal decision contains further embarrassment for the council. Kuldip Dhesi had also complained that his grievance claim was illegally stalled because the council didn't want to hear a claim about racism. The council argued that Mr Dhesi gave up his right to make such a complaint.

In a highly unusual verdict, the tribunal dismissed the council's defence pointing out that it was obviously false and that the council themselves could not have believed their case to be true at the time it had been advanced. It was a cynical attempt on the part of the council to justify themselves by putting forward spurious explanations.

Kuldip Dhesi said "This should never have taken three years. On the eve of the first day's evidence I went to the Chief Executive and two of his directors. I offered to drop my tribunal claim if they would listen to my internal grievance. They said no. I couldn't believe it then and I can't believe it now. Over three years and after thousands of pounds of expense we arrive at the only logical explanation for this sequence of events. Back in October 2000 I blew the whistle and asked internal audit to look into this to avoid wasting time and money.

"The discrimination was awful but I genuinely think the victimisation is worse. When I knew what was happening to me I went to the Scottish head of asylum work. He did nothing. I went to my own head of service in Social Work, he did nothing. In the course of the months ahead my complaint crossed the desk of at least six further senior officers. None of them recognised or faced up to the obvious discrimination in this case. The language on the tribunal decision says it all. The recruitment process was irrational, unreasonable, mystifying and there wasn't a shred of evidence to support the appointment of the successful candidate. The scary thing for black people in Glasgow is that the tribunal could identify discrimination that none of these council managers or directors could see.

"There have been countless reviews and reports before but I genuinely believe an external expert must be given the task of going over this sequence of events and then instruct the council how to implement its equality agenda. The paper commitment is there but it doesn't work in practice. I worked happily for the council and was genuine in my wish to promote equality but finally I had to walk away and challenge discrimination from the outside. Little has changed in the last 20 years. Mr Dhesi also praised his union UNISON who pursued the case for over three years.

"UNISON has backed this case all the way. It is important that employees facing discrimination are members of their trade union as it would have been impossible for me to take this on alone."

ENDS

For Further Information Please Contact: Peter Hunter (Legal Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 07740 167 777 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)

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