Mail Online… The electrician making a stand over his Christian beliefs was yesterday thrown out of his workplace of 15 years for displaying a cross to mark Easter.
Colin Atkinson was told he had ‘violated’ his contract by revealing he had been disciplined for having the symbol on the dashboard of his company van.
Senior managers told the 64-year-old grandfather he could no longer work at the depot because he had ‘upset his workmates’. He has been moved to another depot but fears he will be sacked in days.
Despite Wakefield District Housing’s ‘anti-Christian’ rules, Mr Atkinson’s boss, Denis Doody, is allowed to display a poster of communist revolutionary Che Guevara in his office.
It is believed Mr Doody is one of the ‘upset’ colleagues.
Yesterday morning senior WDH managers were waiting for Mr Atkinson – who retires in ten months – at the company’s depot in Castleford, West Yorkshire, to deliver the news.
Mr Atkinson told the Daily Mail: ‘I expect to be sacked within days. They have already found against me for failing to carry out a “reasonable management request” by refusing to get rid of the cross.
‘And now they say they will give me three days notice of their final decision.
‘But if I lose my job as a consequence of all this then so be it. I don’t have any bitterness. I am standing by what I believe to be right in the eyes of the Lord.’
Mr Doody, the company’s environmental manager, has complained about being drawn into Mr Atkinson’s disciplinary case. But the electrician, who has been moved to a depot in Wakefield, claims that his boss’s Left-wing posters are relevant.
He said: ‘My van is my workplace. This is where I do my work.’
He added: ‘I was told that a decision was made that it was unacceptable for me to keep working in my workplace. They said there would be “friction”.
‘But I am unhappy about changing my working environment. They have asked me to move away from my work colleagues, my friends, at a time of high stress.’
The electrician and his wife Geraldine, 61, face financial hardship if he loses his job.
Mr Atkinson’s plight has been championed by senior church figures including former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, who said: ‘I think this is absolutely astonishing. This man has every right to stand up for his beliefs.
‘It is clearly very important for him to have the cross in the cabin of his van. I hope that his bosses see that no good will come out of this.’
A Church of England spokesman said: ‘At this time of year the palm cross is a very potent symbol of the Christian faith and we would hope that these difficulties can be resolved.’
Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, West Yorkshire, said: ‘You have to wonder if Mr Atkinson had displayed a symbol from another religion whether he would have been disciplined.’
Mr Atkinson’s ordeal began last year after bosses received an anonymous letter claiming tenants may be offended by the eight-inch cross in the van.
He refused to remove it and was accused of rejecting a ‘reasonable’ management request.
Mr Atkinson and his Unite union rep had argued there was nothing in company rules prohibiting the cross. Hindu and Sikh colleagues appeared as witnesses in his defence.
WDH promotes its inclusive policies and allows employees to wear religious symbols – including burkas – at work.
But it changed company policy on Christmas Eve last year, banning all personal effects in its vehicles. In January Mr Atkinson was reported for continuing to display the cross in his van and last week WDH concluded he had breached company rules.
Last night Gillian Pickersgill, WDH’s executive director of people, said: ‘WDH fully support the rights of our employees to wear religious symbols while at work and to have religious symbols on their desks. WDH simply don’t allow employees to display personal items in our company vans.
‘We haven’t commenced formal disciplinary proceedings against Colin, and we sincerely hope that we can reach a satisfactory outcome for both Colin and WDH without doing so.’