Suspended Lancashire workers to fight for their jobs

Workers suspended from Lancashire County Council over an alleged anti-Semitic e-mail have vowed to fight to keep their jobs.

Fourteen people have been told to stay away from work for sending or receiving the e-mail, which relates to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

The email, which has been obtained by the Evening Post, uses graphic photos to compare the conflict in the Middle East with the extermination of Jews by the Nazis during the Second World War. It also urges those who receive the e-mail to forward it to as “many people as possible.”

The majority of the 14 staff, who work in the adult social care and children and young people directorates, are believed to come from Preston.

They have been warned not to contact each other, and one council source claims they face the sack if they speak about their suspensions publicly. Socialist councillor Michael Lavalette, who represents town centre ward on Preston Council, also received the e-mail and said he did not believe it was anti-Semitic.

“It contains nothing which is untrue. Five or six of the photos are not nice but that is the reality of war.

“They all want their jobs back. This is incredibly harsh.”

It is understood that half of the staff were suspended for simply receiving the message.

The remaining workers either forwarded the e-mail to their private accounts or on to other members of county council staff.

Many are believed to be union members and are receiving help. Others have sought advice from solicitors.

Les Parker, Lancashire branch secretary of Unite, said: “I am concerned if people have only received it and been suspended.”

Carol Lukey, of the county council branch of Unison, said it was “inappropriate” to comment.

In a statement, council chief executive Ged Fitzgerald said: “I can confirm that 14 staff members have been suspended, pending an investigation.

“At the county council we believe all our staff have a duty to use e-mail in a responsible manner, and our priority at this time is to ascertain the facts around the allegations and ensure that the right action is taken.”