RACQ stands firm on sacked driver

PLEASE REHIRE: The fight for Murray French’s job has many supporters.
PLEASE REHIRE: The fight for Murray French’s job has many supporters. Contributed

THE RACQ refuses to reinstate Murray French, despite some 7000 signatures on a petition; 600 people voting in a Big Rigs poll agreeing he should be reinstated; and RACQ members saying they will boycott the roadside assistance business.

Recently A Current Affair picked the story up and more support was thrown behind Murray when the TWU protested at RACQ headquarters in Brisbane.

Big Rigs spoke to Clinton Williams, the man with disabilities who is at the centre of the situation and he told us he felt awful about Murray getting sacked.

"I feel gutted for Murray; I feel like it's my fault," he said.

Mr Williams, a paraplegic family man who lives on the Gold Coast, said no one from RACQ asked him what had happened or why he needed Murray to get him off the highway.

But he did get a call from the RACQ that he said sounded like a customer satisfaction survey.

Mr French was sacked after he towed Mr Williams off the M1 while still in his car, something Williams said he was grateful for.

"I couldn't get out, I didn't have any meds," he said.

Mr Williams' condition means that he gets severe nerve pain and he can only sit in a car for about an hour at a time. When he learned that it could take upwards of two hours to get a lane of the highway unblocked, he pleaded with Murray.

He also needed to use the bathroom.

But the RACQ said Mr French broke the law and should have waited for back-up.

"It was too long to wait.

"When I saw his flashing lights, I had a sigh of relief," Mr Williams said.

"I felt safer on the back of the truck.

"In my eyes Murray did 100% the right thing for my situation."

Now he's calling for the RACQ to give Murray an apology and some money for his troubles.

"It might have been against policy, but it was the right circumstance for me."

He calls Murray a hero: "In my eyes he did 100% the right thing, without a doubt."

And while this story has grown into a David and Goliath battle between Murray and the RACQ, Murray only wants one thing, his job back.

Big Rigs first brought you the story last edition, the RACQ say Murray didn't follow procedure and broke the law.

He should have called the police and traffic control to come and block the highway off, but he didn't... Clinton was stuck inside his car, not feeling safe with 110kmh traffic speeding past and said he couldn't wait hours.

So while Murray did the right thing by Clinton, he didn't do the right thing to keep his job.

Big Rigs has now received dozens of letters supporting Murray with one company even offering him a job.

The guys at Wil-Tow have reached out and offered him a position, and many others have called for him to be reinstated, 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 110kmh 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 driver from the UK weighed in, saying Mr French had made the right decision.

But RACQ executive general manager advocacy Paul Turner said the matter was now with the Fair Work Commission.

"In dangerous situations such as these, our drivers are required to seek assistance, either from RACQ traffic response teams to create a safe high-speed environment, or from emergency services who can also provide a safe environment for the passenger and the vehicle," he said.

"Unfortunately in this instance the illegal and unsafe action was undertaken by the driver before he made contact, as required.

"No assistance was sought, no

advice was sought, and the driver attempted to cover up his actions after the fact. That is unacceptable.

"RACQ has a safe system, it's a team effort from the hundreds of trucks on the roads to the support call and dispatch centres and even the emergency services.

"This driver utilised none of this team, and acted unilaterally, and unsafely.

"Had the proper course of action been undertaken in this instance, any one of 18 vehicles in the area could have been there within 20 minutes to make sure all those involved were moved quickly and safely from the scene.

"These safety protocols are not mindless bureaucracy or contract conditions, they are designed to save lives, including those of our own RACQ staff and contractors.

"RACQ is happy to discuss this issue in the Fair Work Commission, as requested by the TWU. Unfortunately the TWU would rather invade RACQ's club headquarters with paid protesters."

Mr French said his phone had been ringing non-stop and he's had a few more job offers.

Recent conciliation with RACQ went "no where".

"They're just wrong plain wrong," he said of the RACQ's claims he could have had backup in minutes.

Topics:  racq sacked transport truck driver

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