Northcliffe sub wins payout over bullying

Aberdeen Evening Express: sub-editor Bruce Wyer won a £6,630 payout

A Northcliffe sub-editor has won a £6,630 payout for constructive dismissal after being “bullied” because he refused to have his picture on the company intranet.

An employment tribunal also heard that “verbal intimidation” from the editor of the Aberdeen Evening Express had led to “complete despondency” on the paper’s subbing desk.

Problems started for Bruce Wyer, a sub-editor of 26-years’ standing with the company, after he received a memo asking if his photograph could be used on a new electronic staff directory.

Wyer, 53, refused because he said he distrusted electronic media, feared that others could steal his identity and felt he was well enough known in the organisation anyway.

Editor Donald Martin decided that those who refused to have their photos on the company intranet would have use of internet and e-mail removed. Wyer had his e-mail cut off, but not his internet access, and had to be given printed copies of important circular e-mails.

Meanwhile, the tribunal heard that daily morning sessions, where the editor reviewed the paper just before it went to press, were becoming a source of tension because of the high number of mistakes being found on pages. Martin was said to have been warned by his superiors about the high cost of “re-plating” to correct errors found at that late stage in the production process.

Matters reportedly came to a head on 9 September last year when Martin referred to the standard of subbing work as “fucking shite” within earshot of some sub-editors.

Two days later, a probationary subeditor submitted a letter of resignation in which she referred to the “constant negativity on the subs desk” and stated: “your daily verbal intimidation just metres from the subs desk… has been the most destructive workplace exercise I have ever witnessed”.

On 18 September, Wyer found that his internet access had also been restricted and when he was told why he said: “I’ve had enough. It’s the final straw.” He then resigned.

He said he needed internet access to check facts, access a PA wire service and obtain financial information.

The Aberdeen tribunal ruled that Martin’s decision to punish Wyer over the intranet issue was “perverse and capricious” because use of staff photographs was not said by the company to be compulsory.

Wyer, who was represented by the NUJ, is working part-time as a sub-editor for other publications.

He said: “I hope this serves as a warning to management, not just at Aberdeen Journals but throughout the country, that there are limits over which they can’t step.”

 In July 2003, Evening Express parttime sub-editor Eugenie Verney won a case for unfair dismissal. She claimed she was targeted for redundancy because she was chairman of the Grampian branch of the NUJ

By Dominic Ponsford

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