Journalist wins unfair dismissal case against BBC

An employment tribunal has found that a BBC journalist was unfairly dismissed when the corporation closed its Latin American monitoring team.

Russell Maddicks was supported by the National Union of Journalists in the case, which was brought after the government announced cuts of £3m to BBC Monitoring.

According to the union, a judgment on the case said it was unreasonable for the BBC to refuse Russell Maddicks’ request that the appeal against his dismissal should not be heard by the director of monitoring at the BBC, Dr Christopher Westcott.

Maddicks did want Westcott to hear the case because he was a key figure in Future Focus, a scheme aimed at downsizing the BBC Monitoring department. The NUJ said it was inappropriate for Westcott to sit “as judge, jury and executioner within his own process”.

The tribunal also found faults in the way the appeal was heard, according to the union.

The BBC had not supplied all the necessary documentation to the NUJ and had not allowed Maddicks’ evidence to be presented at the hearing. A job which the claimant could have done was also withdrawn unreasonably, said the NUJ.  

The judgment read: “The tribunal has noted that the appeal started without the claimant and his representative having all the documentation they had asked for.

“Rather than allow the claimant to present his argument he asked a series of questions.

“He undertook an investigation after the meeting had concluded without giving the claimant the opportunity of hearing what his investigation had revealed and responding.

“The fact the BBC routinely conducts appeals in that way it does not make it reasonable in the circumstances of this case.”

In a statement the BBC’s NUJ chapel said it welcomed the ruling, which it said “raises issues with procedures and behaviour at the BBC which the NUJ will seek to address with the corporation”.

The judgment was hailed as an “example of what union solidarity and expertise can achieve”.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “This is a very good result for our member Russell Maddicks.

“It is also an opportunity for the union and the BBC to get around the table to ensure that the appeal procedures and other problems in the process are ironed out in order to prevent further unfair dismissals.

“This is particularly important as the BBC rolls out its proposed job cuts across the corporation.”

The NUJ will now be requesting Russell’s reinstatement.

A BBC spokesman commented: "The BBC is disappointed by the outcome.  However, we note that the tribunal concluded that this was a genuine redundancy, that no measures could have been taken to avoid the loss of the redundant post, and that the BBC consulted with the staff, unions and individuals at risk.   The BBC will be reviewing the tribunal's decision in full and the comments it made."

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