These days, you can't sack a piss-pot just because you feel like it

I don’t know the chief sub-editor awarded nearly £21,000 by an employment tribunal after he was unfairly dismissed by Northeast Press, publisher of the Hartlepool Mail, but I certainly feel a bond of allegiance with him.

I’m obviously in no position to be judgemental, and I have no idea about the workplace performance of this self-confessed alcoholic. What I do know is that drink is a constant companion in This Thing of Ours.

While on holiday – and on the piss – he allegedly sent ‘inappropriate’text messages to a junior female colleague. She didn’t complain and insisted that she regularly shared vulgar jokes with the chief sub, but managers – and we’re talking here about the wee moral kirk of Johnston Press – decided that they amounted to harassment.

The poor fellow’s other offence appeared to be becoming abusive at an Asda supermarket after being refused the sale of alcohol. Again, Asda made no complaint. Quite why this agitated his bosses is a mystery.

It was unlikely that he was wearing a large hat bearing a sign reading ‘Chief Sub, Hartlepool Mail”, so what the fuck it had to do with them I don’t know.

And let’s face it – who is there among us who hasn’t become abusive in an Asda after being refused alcohol? I know I have.

But times have changed. In the old days, your bosses would tolerate your inebriation until the moment it outweighed your usefulness. Then you’d be out on your arse, without even a comfy cheque to soften the blow.

Nowadays, there are procedures to follow, and that’s where Northeast Press came unstuck. In these touchy-feely times, you can’t sack a piss-pot just because you feel like it.

It appears that Johnston Press, as an enlightened employer, has its own policy on alcohol and drugs. The alcoholics among us are no longer just sacked outright but are offered the chance to receive company-funded treatment and rehabilitation. A splendid idea, and one which might well save the lives of the liver-enlarged few.

Meanwhile Mungo, the Evening Beast’s peripatetic Glaswegian sub who keeps a house brick in his desk drawer just in case, is eyeing a six-month holiday in The Priory with indecent interest.

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