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Zero Tolerance

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A Leeds employer, who was forced to sack a ‘racist’ staff member last month after a string of incidents, has spoken about the need to stamp out racism in all aspects of life.

Barry Hirst, owner of a gadget repair shop in the city centre, has been working in Leeds for more than 30 years and has had to face a number of racist incidents throughout his working life.

As a Jew, the 52-year-old explained that he has not only witnessed racist behaviour towards some of his ethnic employees in the past but also directly towards himself and now hopes the public can get together to eradicate such behaviour.

SERIOUS: Leeds business owner, Barry Hirst, has spoken out about the need to tackle hate crimes quickly and effectively to eradicate racism from society

SERIOUS: Leeds business owner, Barry Hirst, has spoken out about the need to tackle hate crimes quickly and effectively to eradicate racism from society

“I think any type of racial discrimination, no matter what it is, should not be accepted within the workplace,” he said.

“I find, because I am Jewish, that any type of racial discrimination hurts me and therefore feel that it will have the same effect on all other ethnic communities as well.

“We have a responsibility not to accept this attitude especially in the workplace. It is something I have a zero tolerance approach to and believe others do too.”

Most recently, Mr Hirst had to terminate the contract of one of his employees after he was found to have used derogatory language towards some of the Asian staff whom worked in one of the gadget stores.

Alongside a couple of incidents, not relating to racism, the unnamed employee was sacked yet what followed was a further tirade of abuse, including a death threat towards one of the other members of staff.

Mr Hirst explained: “It started off in casual conversations where this former member of staff was being abusive about Asian members of staff, saying ‘P**i’ in conversations, and things like ‘it would be better to get rid of all Asian members of staff’.

“He had a warning and I told him he cannot discriminate and use that word again… then he went quiet for some time.

“A little while later I then get a couple of text messages which mentioned that word again which concerned me.

For that reason, as well as some incidents within the shop as well…I told him I was going to terminate his contract because he was not suitable.”

After the member of staff was released from his position, he then sent a shocking voicemail message to one of his former Asian colleagues, accusing the staff member for getting him fired.

The message included the statement: ‘When I get my hands on you I will pull your head off you P**i c**t, s**t down your neck and stab you up.’

Despite reporting it to the police as soon as he heard about the incident, Mr Hirst feels that the response to the matter has been too slow adding that this ‘serious crime’ should have been investigated immediately.

“If a police officer, or a member of their family, was threatened in any way or form, whether that is stabbing or punching, I’m sure police would react within minutes or hours,” he said.

“Yet here, someone from an ethnic background has been threatened to be stabbed as well as being racially discriminated, yet it has taken them a month to get their act together.

“How can they say that they are prioritizing tackling racism in the community when something like this has taken place?

“I feel quite strongly that any type of racial behaviour or threat to someone’s life should be immediately stopped in its tracks.”

The Asian Express followed up the enquiry with West Yorkshire police who offered reassurance that the matter was still under investigation and was being taken extremely seriously.

Adding: “All crimes of this nature are taken very seriously and anybody who has information regarding hate crimes is urged to call PC Sedha on 101.”

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