A British Airways employee was sacked after threatening to poison a strike-breaking pilot’s food and posting a series of other sinister threats on YouTube, an employment tribunal has heard.
Bryan Benning, who was based at Heathrow’s Terminal Five, is suing the airline for unfair dismissal, claiming that it was his brother rather than himself who posted the messages, which centred around last year’s acrimonious strike.
Writing under the pseudonym ‘Strike 2010’, the 43-year old father of two was alleged to have made his comments in response to ‘Ruthless Interloper’, another user of the video-sharing site who was later identified as a BA pilot.
One post is claimed to have said: “All crew hate nigels – they are glorified bus drivers.” Another read: “Cabin crew want nothing to do with you anymore. Enjoy your nights in chinos, polo shirt and eating your chicken wings.”
It continued: “We have a whole number of scab’s details and car details. By the way, don’t eat anything you are to be served on board. Bring your own food on board. We know everything, we have all your details.”
Senior BA officials traced the messages back to Benning, who lives in Eastbourne, East Sussex, and subsequently intercepted him as he was about to board a flight to Cairo. He was suspended and later dismissed. BA claimed it took him three days after his suspension to produce an explanation for his actions.
But Anya Palmer, the lawyer representing Benning, said that he was suffering from a debilitating bout of severe depression and that understanding should be given to his behaviour at the tribunal.
“When someone is suffering with severe depression, they may not act in a way that would make sense to you or I. He was advised by his doctor that he should not take part in the hearing and he could not answer questions over the phone. He was severely depressed, on pills and did not have a union representative,” she said.
Palmer added that Benning was provoked into posting messages by other people’s comments, including those of a blogger writing under the name ‘Powerful Peanuts’.
A video that was shown to the tribunal showed Powerful Peanuts saying: “Cabin crew you are paid £30,000 a year and all you do is open a packet of dry roasted nuts and walk up and down the aeroplane; you have no qualifications or skills.”
He continued: “The women are only employed if they have a nice ass and male cabin crew members have those faces you want to punch – and I would love to – until it looks like a beef burger. You are glorified waiters and waitresses. The hardest part of your job is putting ice cubes into tiny glasses.”
Benning was alleged to have responded with a post saying: “You stupid tw*t. Go cut your head lice ridden hair and get a job. Do yourself a favour and start wearing some deodorant. Like usual – a stupid fecking student who thinks he knows everything but infact knows feck all.”
He continued: “Go die in a compost heap you piece of s***. Your day will come to you silly piece of s*** and who will stand up for you? You will die a SCAB. You will take that title to the grave. Everyday it will eat away at you. You deserve it. Oh – by the way, good riddance.”
The tribunal continues, with a decision hearing scheduled to be held on 24 May.