National Highways official is GAGGED for saying safe roads mattered more than celebrating ‘woke’ awareness days including World Hijab Day
A National Highways official who queried why the crisis-hit quango was celebrating ‘woke’ awareness days rather than focusing on making roads safer says he has been gagged by his bosses.
Paul Thomas claims he was banned from speaking out at work after questioning how a company LGBT event was relevant to the roads operator’s mission to ‘manage and improve England’s motorways’.
The 58-year-old executive officer, who has worked for National Highways for almost 30 years, also raised concerns when the company celebrated World Hijab Day, the head covering worn in public by some Muslim women.
‘I pointed out they shouldn’t be celebrating it nor condemning it. They should be impartial,’ said Mr Thomas, who expressed his views on an online work forum.
A National Highways official who queried why the crisis-hit quango was celebrating ‘woke’ awareness days rather than focusing on making roads safer says he has been gagged by his bosses (stock image of the M5)
Paul Thomas claims he raised concerns when the company celebrated World Hijab Day, the head covering worn in public by some Muslim women (stock image)
After colleagues accused him of harassment, he was told by bosses that he was banned from commenting on any of the department’s forums and social networks for two years.
It comes as National Highways finds itself at the centre of a safety storm following warnings from an insider that it is ‘only a matter of time until someone is seriously hurt or killed as a direct result’ of its ‘death-trap’ smart motorways.
Relatives of victims killed on the roads – where the hard shoulder is converted to a live lane – have called for the immediate reinstatement of traditional motorway layouts to prevent further deaths.
But Mr Thomas, who stood as the Brexit Party candidate for Leeds Central at the last Election, claimed that rather than focusing on correcting failures that have plagued smart motorways, the operator was fixated on special awareness days.
‘Every single day or month or week there is a day to raise awareness about something in the world. They provide a comment box and all I do is I question these things. But even questioning these things is too much for some, a sign of bigotry, malevolence or some kind or evil going on in the mind of the individual. Many of these awareness-raising diversity initiatives are themselves quite divisive. I call them ‘soft segregationist’.
It comes as National Highways finds itself at the centre of a safety storm following warnings from an insider that it is ‘only a matter of time until someone is seriously hurt or killed as a direct result’ of its ‘death-trap’ smart motorways (stock image of the M4)
‘They have set up separate workplace networks for LGBT people and BAME people – networks based on someone’s sexuality and skin colour. This is blaringly, obviously wrong.’
Mr Thomas added that he was uncomfortable with the state-owned organisation ‘undermining’ its commitment to impartiality on political issues. ‘Part of my criticism is that it oversteps the wage-labour relationship, particularly for a Government department.’
A group of Mr Thomas’s colleagues filed an official grievance against him, claiming his comments amounted to harassment.
He said: ‘They had a go at me and criticised me and that is fine. Suddenly they go down this scabby route of trying to get you in trouble with your employer… try to silence you with this process.’
On his two-year ban from work forums, Mr Thomas said: ‘It is a problem of employers overstepping the mark. Part of this has good intent and I know they’re coming from a place of good intent, but it threatens to divide the workplace and is inherently authoritarian.’
Highways England human resources director Elaine Billington said: ‘We are committed to providing an inclusive and safe workplace, in which individuals are valued and respected.’
In August, National Highways was criticised for a reported £7 million rebrand that changed its name from Highways England – only six years after it underwent a multi-million-pound switch from the Highways Agency.