A BIN man who has spoken out publicly against the city council during the ongoing bin dispute has been sacked for damaging the reputation of his employer.
Father-of-two Paul French has been told that he has been dismissed following an investigation that saw him suspended for seven months.
He today accused the council of ruling against freedom of speech, and revealed he has been paid around 9,000 for the seven-month period he has been suspended, during which he has not worked at all.
The 50-year-old was suspended in August after writing a letter to the Evening News about the bin dispute which the council's head of service, Andrea McHugh, said "criticised elected representatives of the council and senior officers in a manner which is offensive and likely to cause harm to the council's reputation".
She also said that posts on the Evening News website under the alias of "Paul the Binman" – one of the most regular contributors to the website on stories about the bin dispute – "appear to have" been made by him.
Today, Mr French, of Saughton Mains Street, said: "I am disappointed that they never listened to any of our arguments. They work like a railway track, with no deviation when a decision is made by the executive.
"I always assumed freedom of speech counts in a modern society, and that a forward-thinking council would not be harking back to the era of Thatcherism.
"It is an unfair punishment. I think it is hypocrisy. There are comments made all the time by politicians and elected members (about the dispute], why should I not be allowed to?"
In his first letter to the News, Mr French said the proposals to change the way manual workers were paid were "a kick in the teeth" and "an insult" to staff.
In the story in the News about his suspension he also said that the council's disciplinary action against him "smacks of Big Brother" and said the council was not willing to allow opinions contrary to the official line to be expressed.
In Mr French's letter of dismissal, the council said that there was "reasonable belief" that Mr French has been blogging under the pseudonym "Paul the Binman", despite him denying it at the disciplinary hearing earlier this month.
In the letter, the council said: "Throughout your blogs and letter correspondence to the Edinburgh Evening News, you have been critical of and caused offence to the council, council officials and elected members and caused harm to the council's reputation."
The letter said he was dismissed because his actions breach "the covenant of trust between employee and employer" and because he "brought the City of Edinburgh Council into disrepute".
A spokesman for the city council said: "We can confirm that Paul French has been dismissed for gross misconduct."
Mr French is now set to appeal against the decision.
The Evening News revealed this week how the city has spent 5.4 million bringing in private contractors to keep the streets clear during the dispute. However, city chiefs insist they will save much more in the long-run from the changes.
A vocal critic who doesn't mince words
HE HAS become one of the biggest critics of the way the council has tried to change the way manual workers, including bin men, are paid.
Just this week, after we revealed the bin dispute has cost 5.4 million, "Paul The Binman" was among the first to comment on our website. He said: "Ask Mr Turley how this 'small figure' compares with the millions set aside to offset the challenges from low-paid female staff who will still see themselves low-paid after the implementation of the single status."
Earlier in the dispute, after a story about councils looking to share services, he said: "I'm in favour, just think of the savings in councillors needed; will Jenny and Stevie be required, or will we only need the one tier of officials?"
Regarding our story about private contractors' routes being sabotaged, he said: "I'm just someone who refuses to take this council's word on anything. Losing a third of my wage doesn't make me feel good."
Responding to comments against bin men by another online poster in August , he said: "You must work for management to keep coming out with all the half truths."