Rail customer service: if you’re Jewish catch a taxi

Heath Aston and Katie Cuttriss

February 12, 2012

8:32AM Sunday Feb 12, 2012


Roman Arnusch

Anti-Semitic spray ... the suspended CityRail employee Roman Arnusch, who was sacked and then reinstated. Photo: Janie Barrett

CHERYL BOGAN couldn’t believe her ears. It wasn’t until the CityRail employee repeated himself in a louder voice that she and her husband, Jeffrey, were sure they were under racist attack by a public servant. The customer service manager at Central Station, no less.

”They’re all Jews living in the eastern suburbs; they’re all wealthy; they can afford to get a taxi,” Roman Arnusch uttered repeatedly, according to the couple.

The Bogans, who are Jewish and live at Bondi, had stepped off a train late at night and asked another CityRail staff member whether trains were still running to Bondi Junction. A ”polite and helpful” Arly Ribet, a subordinate to Mr Arnusch, told them that services had finished and they would need to get a taxi.

It was then that Mr Arnusch, 62, piped up from behind with his observations about Jews, repeating himself up to five times as other passengers got off the train.

Cheryl Bogan

This isn't right... Cheryl Bogan claims she was abused. Photo: Simon Alekna

”I was utterly shocked,” Mrs Bogan told The Sun-Herald. ”You don’t expect to hear that from a staff member of the railways. We sort of looked at each other and said, ‘This isn’t right, we need to say something.”’

Mr Arnusch, who had worked for CityRail for 29 years, was sacked last August, nine months after the Bogans complained in writing to RailCorp.

During investigations, Mr Ribet confirmed that Mr Arnusch used the phrase ”Bondi Jew”. Mr Arnusch maintained he had said words to the effect: ”They wouldn’t mind getting a taxi because they have plenty of money as they were living in Bondi where a lot of rich Jewish people live.” He also claimed the comments were directed to Mr Ribet, not the Bogans.

Last week, however, the Transport Appeals Board overturned the decision and Mr Arnusch, supported by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, will return to work on March 28 after completing a six-month suspension without pay.

In setting aside the RailCorp decision, Commissioner Inaam Tabbaa said:

”Whether the remark that Mr Arnusch made was in the terms as described by CSA Ribet, or the Bogans or the appellant himself, it was racist, offensive, uncalled for and completely inappropriate, particularly for someone in a customer service position with RailCorp.”

Despite that, the commissioner noted Mr Arnusch’s ”distinguished” career of almost 30 years and glowing references provided. ”Dismissal is extreme in the present circumstances as it would serve to end his working life given his age and field of experience,” she said.

Mrs Bogan said she was satisfied as long as he had ”learnt his lesson”.

At his Hornsby Heights home on Friday, Mr Arnusch said: ”I’m happy with the result and, yes, I am looking forward to going back to work.”

Asked whether he regretted his statements, he said: ”I’m just happy it has all been sorted out now.”