`Common sense' to observe guidelines on wearing poppies
The chief executive of the Fair Employment Commission in Northern Ireland said yesterday that workers who ignored management guidelines on the wearing of personal emblems were running the risk of having a ban imposed on all emblems in the workplace.
Mr Bob Cooper was reacting to a claim by Alderman Gregory Campbell of the DUP that four workers at the Coats Viyella shirt factory on Trench Road in the Waterside, Derry, were suspended for wearing poppies. Management at the factory has declined to comment on the claim. It is understood that the workforce, which comprises both Catholics and Protestants, was told that poppies could not be worn in the factory until November 6th, three days before Remembrance Sunday.
"Four workers who failed to remove their poppies when ordered to do so were suspended," said Mr Campbell. "Many of the workers who were told not to wear the poppy until next week feel their civil and religious liberties have been infringed." He said a number of factories in the area are believed to have given directives to workers about the wearing of the poppy. He hoped management at these factories would resolve these problems. "Remembrance Day and the wearing of a poppy should not be something that causes controversy."
However, Mr Cooper said he did not accept that it was a civil liberty to wear a poppy or any personal emblem. "It is the application of sound common sense," he said." Employers are quite entitled to take a view that they will permit poppies to be worn at a particular time, but not at other times. "What quite a lot of employers in Derry have said is that the poppy can be worn for a certain number of days on or about Remembrance Day and that seems eminently sensible.
"Those who argue against it are arguing against their own interests because they will drive an employer into saying that emblems cannot be worn at any time."