Bosses told journalist sent to Baghdad: 'take it as holiday'

A journalist sent to Baghdad to interview Iraqi militants was told by his boss that he got the trip instead of a holiday, an employment tribunal heard.

Bahar Hussein, 49, claims that he was employed by the Arab News Network for two years without receiving a single holiday. The tribunal heard that in October 2005 he was sent to Baghdad for two weeks where he interviewed Iraqi politicians as well as militants active in the insurgency. Hussein took his employers to a tribunal this week claiming constructive dismissal and non-payment of holiday pay and wages.

He said that he took his first holiday in two years in June 2006 but that whilst he was on holiday, his managers replaced him with a new employee on a lower salary. Hussein claims that he was given no work to do for three months and that he was effectively forced to resign.

According to Hussein's solicitors, Thompsons, when his employers were questioned about why they had only allowed him one holiday in two years, his former manager told the tribunal that the two weeks spent in Baghdad should be counted as a holiday. The tribunal unanimously found that Hussein had been unfairly dismissed and that his employer had unlawfully withheld wages three months salary from him. He was awarded £28,979 in compensation.

He said: "I worked hard for Arab News Network without taking a break only to be rewarded with a kick in the teeth. To suggest that I went to Iraq for a holiday is outrageous. I can think of much safer and more relaxing places to take a holiday than Baghdad.

"I discovered on my return that Arab News Network that I was not even insured to travel to and work in Iraq."

The National Union of Journalists paid for the costs of Hussein's action.

General secretary Jeremy Dear said: "The way Bahar Hussein was treated really does beggar belief. To send a journalist to a war zone, where his life is endangered and he does his best to carry out his work in a professional manner under the most difficult circumstances only to tell him that this constitutes a holiday, is utterly shameful. "To then replace him with another lower-paid employee, in effect dismissing him, is a disgraceful way to treat a loyal member of staff. We are delighted that Mr Hussein has won his case and that the NUJ and our solicitors, Thompsons, were able to back him in his courageous stand against this shocking treatment by the Arab News Network."

Hussein's lawyer David McElrea said: "We're seeing an increasing number of cases involving media outlets who think they can deny journalists their employment rights, including the right to holiday pay, with impunity. This case should send a message to other employers that employment tribunals will take a pretty dim view of such practices."

Picture: REUTERS

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