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UPDATE: RACQ members support Murray, call for his job back

OUT OF JOB: Murray French states his case.
OUT OF JOB: Murray French states his case. Contributed

UPDATE:  LETTERS supporting Murray French have come pouring in, with one company even offering him a job.

The guys at Wil-Tow have reached out to Mr French and offered him a position, while many others have called for him to be re-instated, many citing their RACQ member numbers.

John Campbell from Nambour said Mr French should be reinstated immediately with no loss of pay.

"It's not much fun breaking down on the M1 in 110 km traffic if you are able bodied let alone if you have a disability," he wrote.

"We are not living in a perfect world and some people have to use their initiative in some circumstances."

This was echoed by Kevin Kallmeyer who commended Mr French's actions.

"While Mr French is not a hero for this action he is certainly a man of action and safety thinking first and foremost of the safety of all on the road in not wanting to close lanes when there is another safer choice," he wrote.

A recovery drivers from the UK even weighed in on the discussion saying Mr French had made the right decision.

Another asked where the petition was.

What do you think?  Answer our poll.

Do you think Murray French should get his job back?

This poll ended on 31 July 2015.

Yes the RACQ should reinstate Murray. - 94%

No, he didn't follow proceedure and the RACQ was right. - 5%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

THE STORY: SACKED for towing a disabled man to safety, tow truck driver Murray French has lost hope of ever getting his job back.

Mr French spoke exclusively to Big Rigs  after the news broke the RACQ had fired him for not following procedure.

He was planning to stay anonymous but, as his hopes fell of being reinstated, he agreed to be interviewed.

Imagine your job is going to accident sites daily, in sometimes dangerous situations involving fast-moving traffic - it doesn't get much worse than cars flying by at 110kmh - but that was the situation Mr French was in.

It was a routine breakdown on the M1 highway at the Gold Coast in Queensland on June 1 but the driver needed a bit more help than usual because he was disabled.

Mr French said the rear tyre on the man's car had blown "badly" and he was so close to traffic that to open his door to access his wheelchair would encroach one metre onto the road.

The passenger side door wasn't much help either and couldn't be opened enough to get the man out.

Mr French said a maxi taxi that had been ordered for the driver left as it was deemed too risky to access the roof-mounted wheelchair on the side of the highway.

"I could see this guy was scared," Mr French said.

He admitted he should have called for back-up to get the lane blocked off so the man could be helped from the car but that could have taken between two and three hours.

With the disabled man stuck inside his car and "shaking", saying he couldn't wait that long, Mr French made the decision to winch him while still inside the car.

The man wore his seatbelt and was only taken about 10m before the highway exit then about 500m until there was a safe place to get him out of the car but that was enough.

When management were alerted, Mr French was out of a job.

While the Transport Workers Union is calling him a hero, the RACQ sees things differently.

"This was a very serious matter and the driver's actions were in breach of the law, RACQ's strict safety protocols and actually placed the member at far greater risk," RACQ executive general manager advocacy Paul Turner said.

"This is a case of gross and wilful misconduct involving serious breaches of safety and acting contrary to instructions.

"We therefore stand by our decision and will deal with any challenge to that decision in the appropriate forum.

"RACQ rejects the suggestion that this person's actions were heroic."

But Mr French doesn't want praise; all he wants is his job back.

He stands by his decision, saying it was too dangerous to leave the man where he was with just a few safety cones between him and the 110kmh traffic.

"He kept saying 'all I could think of was these people that got killed at Coomera'," Mr French said.

"Is there any humanity? I did what I thought I had to, to get him off the road.

"I would have loved to get my job back.

"I think a guy in a wheelchair deserves more consideration."

The TWU is taking an unfair dismissal claim up with Fair Work.

What do you think? Email editor@bigrigs.com.au or leave a comment below:

What the TWU say:

TWU Queensland state secretary Peter Biagini said Murray French should have been applauded, not fired.

"He should be a hero, this guy," Mr Biagini said.

"The TWU backs our members 100%. This driver is an asset to the RACQ and the Queensland drivers who rely on him and he should be reinstated immediately.

"Our RACQ driver was forced to decide whether or not to save a person with a disability from a life-threatening situation on Queensland's busiest motorway and RACQ sacked him for it. He should be congratulated.

"People get killed on these highways. It is a fatal risk to remain on the M1 in a stationary vehicle.

"We had five young people tragically killed when their car broke down and a car ploughed into the back of it on the M1 near Coomera in December 2012 and there have been too many incidents of stationary cars on motorways hit, resulting in death, in Queensland and interstate."

Mr Biagini said there was not always one way to deal with things.

"Every breakdown situation is different," he said.

"There are situations that call for initiative, such as a life-threatening situation where it is commonsense to get the person out of danger as quickly as possible. The RACQ policy on towing needs to recognise this reality on the road."

Mr French is a TWU member and a dedicated professional driver who has worked as a vehicle recovery officer for the RACQ, assisting Queenslanders with breakdowns on the road, for more than eight years.

"The TWU calls on the RACQ to immediately reinstate our member, who is an asset to the organisation," Mr Biagini said.

"We also call on the RACQ to consult with the TWU regarding changing their towing policy to reflect the reality of the road so situations like this do not occur in future and no tow truck driver is left to question whether or not to take an action that could save a life."

Big Rigs

Topics:  disabled access, editors picks, racq, sacked, tow truck, transport, trucks


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