AN AIRFIELD worker dubbed the “witch up North” by her Buckinghamshire-based boss has won her case for sex discrimination at an industrial tribunal.

Joanne Batham is set to receive more than £17,000 in compensation after she was sacked from her job in Moray by Safeskys Ltd managing director Richard Barber.

The tribunal heard that Miss Batham, of Lossiemouth, was employed by the company as unit manager in charge of a team controlling birds nesting near RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Kinloss, and preventing them from interfering with jets taking off and landing. 

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She was named Manager of the Year for 2014, but became aware that her duties were almost identical to those of two other Safeskys employees in England and Wales, who received bigger salaries.

The 42-year-old raised the matter with Mr Barber, but was told that there were commercial reasons she was paid a lesser wage, and that she could leave if she was not happy with her salary.

At the same time a situation arose involving the simultaneous breakdown of both of Safesky’s vehicles in Scotland, which was only salvaged when Miss Batham secured the loan of replacements from the RAF. 

Mr Barber ordered Miss Batham to get her staff to use their own cars to work on the airbases, but she refused saying that they did not have the mandatory emergency lights or the correct vehicle insurance.

In his judgment on the case, tribunal judge J M Hendry said: “Mr Barber was piqued by the response. He was used to being challenged by the two male regional managers on occasions, but he found it difficult to accept from the Claimant (Miss Batham).

“In relation to the two regional managers, he would be amused if they reacted angrily or robustly to his manner or comments. He regarded this as ‘banter’.”

The situation deteriorated, and witnesses at the tribunal said Mr Barber began to use derogatory language to describe Miss Batham behind her back, including calling her a “bitch” and “witch”, while references were made to the “little blonde women”.    

It was also said that he did not like employing women, as they “would just go and get pregnant”, and felt “superior” to them. 

Behind the scenes Mr Barber had decided to sack her, and hatched a plan to have her train her replacement. An email from him to a subordinate, shown to the tribunal, said: “We approach [Miss Batham’s replacement] and ask him if he wants the manager’s job. We take him in confidence and tell him the truth that Joe [Miss Batham] will leave and he will be the boss. If he agrees we tell Joe that we are sending her on leave for a week as she is stressed.” 

It continued: “As soon as she leaves the station, cancel her passes and inform her she is dismissed.”

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In his ruling, Judge Hendry said it was clear Miss Batham had faced discrimination. He wrote: “The Tribunal came to the conclusion it would not rely on the Respondent’s [Mr Barber’s] evidence to provide a non-discriminatory explanation for what transpired.” He awarded Miss Batham £17,550 in costs and compensation.