Bury traffic warden SACKED on Christmas Eve over ‘golliwog’ keyring – but man pleads ‘I’m not a racist’

By Jon Harris

A Bury traffic warden has been sacked for breaking rules on racial diversity – for using a keyring with a golliwog toy attached to it.

Ex-police worker Mike Bower, 52, had bought the keyring from a car boot sale to attach to the keys of his moped after he kept losing them at home.

But he fell foul of work rules on racial equality after the toy fell off his bunch of keys at the end of his shift and it was found on the floor by colleagues.

Mr Bower found it placed on his locker the next morning and later he was suspended then summoned before a disciplinary hearing at NSL Services, which manages parking on behalf of Bury Council, Greater Manchester.

Bosses deemed the golliwog toy an ‘inappropriate racial object’ and he received a letter through the post on Christmas Eve terminating his contract for breaches of NSL Diversity and Communications Policy and a ‘serious act of discourtesy’.

Now Mr Bower, a married grandfather from Radcliffe who worked for the firm for nine months has spoken out after an appeal against his dismissal was rejected. He is planning to take the company to a tribunal.

The former PCSO with Greater Manchester Police said: ‘”I don’t think gollys are racist and I’m not racist and I’m really shocked at the way I have been treated.

”I have not got a racist bone in my body and that’s what annoys me. It is very offensive to be branded a racist. Having a golliwog key ring doesn’t make you a racist.

”I used to have a Bart Simpson keyring that had Bart pulling his shorts down and saying “eat my shorts,” – does that make me a paedophile?”

Mr Bower started working at NSL in March 2013 but trouble began in December three weeks after bought the key ring for 50 pence for the car boot sale to attach to the keys for his moped.

“I didn’t think anything of it and I went into work as normal and no-one mentioned it.” he added.

”I would use the keyring on my keys, park my bike up and put my keys in my pocket so it was hardly ever out on show anyway. I never flashed it around.

“I bought the keyring in November then on December 4 I was called into the office by management.

“My manager said ‘you can’t have things like that, it’s barred, it’s banned, it’s racial’. I told him it wasn’t banned.

“He started filling paperwork out and saying it was serious. I was so angry that I asked if it would be ok if I went home.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all. By the end of the day my manager called me and told me I was suspended.

”I can’t believe their attitude over a keyring. If I was on a break one day and I took it off my keys and started doing silly things with it like dancing or making silly voices with it, then I would agree it becomes a racial item. But I would never ever dare do anything like that anyway because I am not that type of person.

“I was suspended until I had a meeting on December 17 then I got the letter on Xmas Eve to say I had been sacked.

”My wife burst into tears, we had family coming the next day so I have just had to get on with it. I was so angry and my wife was mortified. I had to just put on a brave face.

“I still feel that I am not to blame. It is just a keyring.  I got in touch with DWP, the Home Office, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, even Robertsons jam and all have said there was nothing wrong with this keyring.

“I am not racist. I know this is the token thing for people to say but I have a lot of contacts in the Bangladeshi and Pakistani community from when I worked as a driver for social services and they all said they weren’t offended by it at all.

”In fact a lot of the Muslim elders laughed at it when they saw it.

“The people who produced the keyring have told me they are absolutely disgusted.

“I could walk into my local police station with the keyring and there would be nothing wrong with it. It maybe frowned upon but it is not banned.

”When I was younger we used to collect tokens on the side of Robertsons jams and save them to get golly statues.

“But I feel that it has been implied that I’m a racist and it is absolute rubbish. I worked at Oldham social services for 12 years and I had to go out into the community.

”I had a lot of Asian friends. I lived abroad for six-and-a-half years and have a lot of Greek and Albanian friends. The key ring fell off my bunch and someone put it on my locker and the next thing I know I am being sacked.”

A spokesman for NSL Parking said: “We can confirm that a civil enforcement officer was dismissed from his employment with NSL on December 23, 2013.

“The grounds for dismissal involve breaches of the NSL Diversity Policy, the NSL Communications Policy and for committing a serious act of discourtesy toward a fellow colleague.”

The golliwog was originally a black character in children’s books in the late 19th century usually depicted as a type of rag doll.

It was reproduced, both by commercial and hobby toy-makers as a children’s toy and had great popularity in Europe and Australia into the 1970s.

But today critics claim it is a symbol racism against Afro Caribbean people. Manufacturers who have used golliwogs as a motif have withdrawn them as an icon.

Image courtesy of [email protected], with thanks

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