Aberdeen paper's sub was dismissed unfairly

A newspaper sub-editor who claimed she was made redundant because of her trade union activities has won a tribunal ruling for reinstatement.

Eugenie Verney, 49, lost her job at the Aberdeen Evening Express and took the publisher, Aberdeen Journals, to the tribunal.

Verney, the only part-time sub on the paper, claimed she was unfairly dismissed in May last year because she was the chairwoman of the local branch of the National Union of Journalists.

In a written judgement, the tribunal has found in her favour and ruled she should be reinstated – although it could not pinpoint the reasons behind her dismissal and found no evidence of discrimination.

Verney said: “I am a very happy bunny – it’s a major victory.”

“To be honest I do not know what will happen now. I think it’s unlikely they will want to give me my job back but I would like the job back.

“I have applied for many jobs since but have been unable to get anything.

I am now studying employment law and working as a freelance researcher.

“But I am delighted at the ruling – it’s the principle of the thing.”

Her lawyer, David Stevenson of Edinburgh-based Thomsons, confirmed: “They have found she was unfairly dismissed and that no convincing reason for dismissal was given. “We sought to argue it must have been reason of Eugenie’s trade union activities but they ruled there was insufficient evidence to conclude what the reason was.”

The paper has 42 days to appeal against the decision.

“The law cannot enforce a reinstatement, but there would be a financial penalty if they do not do so,” said Stevenson.

Evening Express editor Donald Martin said the company was waiting to study the judgement. However, he added: “We are delighted that the tribunal found there was no discrimination.”

During the week-long tribunal hearing earlier this year, the panel was told that Aberdeen Journals had to take cost-cutting measures last year due to a downturn in the media industry, and that the Evening Express had decided to merge its Banff and Buchan edition into the main Aberdeen paper.

The move would free up two reporters and a sub-editor. The reporters were offered transfers to The Press and Journal and an assessment of the sub-editors’ pool was carried out.

Management said Verney had been selected to go after she achieved a low score in an assessment of sub-editors at the paper.

They said she had not consciously been marked down because she worked part-time or was involved in trade union activities.

The NUJ believed otherwise.

Verney said that, apart from one instance the year before when she received a poor appraisal, no concerns about her work or attitude had been raised.

The tribunal heard Evening Express editor of Martin had grave doubts that the employer/employee relationship could be resurrected.

 

By Ken Banks

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