Long-serving lifeguard Ray Lill (pictured) was sacked following claims by leisure centre bosses that he had used his mobile phone at the poolside last month.
The 64-year-old has strenuously denied the suggestion and an online petition calling for him to be given his old job back has been signed by over 3,000 local residents.
Today (Wednesday), some of those supporters took part in a protest outside the centre; some have already cancelled their membership, while others are calling for a boycott.
Stuart Paling, who started the campaign, said that Ray had dedicated his life to the Chelmsley Wood area and was a familiar face to generations of people who had visited the swimming baths.
“He has touched thousands of lives during his tenure there. Many of you I’m sure have learnt to swim as a result of Ray.”
Many of those who have rallied behind the grandfather-of-six left messages of support online.
Pat Bourke, from Coleshill, said: “Ray’s welcoming smile and affable nature have always been a part of my experiences at the pool since I first visited, both with school groups and as an individual over the past 30 years of so. One just expects to see him there.”
Ian Robinson wrote: “Although I didn’t know Ray by name I recognised him instantly. Ray has been a figure at those baths since I was a child. He was always cheerful and I can remember him helping my mum with cramp when she was struggling.”
The lifeguard has worked at the centre since it opened and had been due to retire next year.
His daughter, Alison Fox, said her father had been touched by the public response.
A spokesman for Parkwood Leisure, who operate the centre, said that they had dismissed Ray for “gross misconduct” due to a breach of health and safety regulations.
“Health and safety is our company’s number one priority, we therefore have strict measures in place to safeguard both customers and employees.
“Any breach of these measures is taken extremely seriously and dealt with in line with our HR disciplinary procedures.”
It is understood that the trade union Unison is challenging the dismissal.
- The latest issue of Other Side of Solihull's digital newspaper is out now.