A pair of binmen successfully appealed a drinking-at-work row to win their jobs back – only be told days later they had been dismissed for a SECOND time.

Bin operative Ronnie Spence lost his job in February, last year, after being accused on drinking while on the job.

His colleague, driver David Nightingale, was also fired after the council said he was aware members of the crew were drinking.

Both men – who have more than 60 years of council service between them – denied the allegations and were successful in an appeal to the council’s appeals panel who overturned the decision, a hearing heard.

But the panel, which was made up of local councillors, then saw its ruling overturned by town hall bosses, it is claimed.

Mr Nightingale, 58, and 54-year-old Mr Spence have launched joint claims for unfair and wrongful dismissal, and unlawful deduction of wages, after being axed by the council in February last year.

A preliminary employment tribunal heard that both men were given the green light to return to work when South Tyneside Council’s Head of Legal Services, Mike Harding, sent an email on August 28 to their union representative, South Tyneside councillor Wilf Flynn, stating the appeal had been successful.

Coun Flynn phoned both men to share the good news and told them to expect a letter finalising their re-appointment, the hearing in North Shields, Tyne and Wear, was told.

But when the letter arrived, on September 9, it informed the men the council had rejected the appeal’s panel decision and the two of them had effectively been sacked for a second time.

Having already waited five months for their appeal to be heard, the pair face another delay, after employment judge Jeremy Hargrove reserved judgement over whether the case will move to a full tribunal hearing.

During the proceedings Mr Nightingale said: “Coun Flynn phoned us to say he had good news. We had been reinstated. He said to expect a letter in the next two weeks to confirm it.

“I received a letter on September 9 from the council saying the appeal panel’s decision had been overturned and we remained sacked.

“I read out the letter to Coun Flynn. He was fuming.”

Judge Hargrove adjourned the case to decide whether the dismissal date should be recorded as February 19, as the workers claim, or as September 9, the date the appeal committee verdict was overturned, as the council argues.

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