Tribunal payout for press officer accused of leaking stories

The National Union of Journalists has won £25,000 in compensation for a Manchester Airport press officer after disputing claims she had leaked stories to local newspapers.

An employment tribunal has found that Jennifer Walley was unfairly dismissed.

According to the NUJ, Walley was suspended from her job managing the airport’s press office in May 2006 after she submitted alternative proposals to planned restructuring.

The union says that when her suspension was reported in the Manchester Evening News and Blackpool Gazette, managers claimed as part of the disciplinary process that Walley was the source for these stories. This claim was not upheld.

Walley was sacked in September 2006.

In a statement issued today, the NUJ noted the following points from the tribunal’s findings. It said:

  • ‘The airport’s Head of Risk Assurance Chris Humm, who conducted the investigation into the allegations, effectively ‘shifted the goalposts’ during his investigation into allegations against Jennifer.”
  • ‘Mr Humm ‘patently misled’ Jennifer when he telephoned her the day before an interview to say there were no new issues to be raised”
  • ‘Management failed to provide Jennifer with written notification of new allegations being made against her, in direct contravention of the company’s disciplinary procedure.”
  • ‘Steve Warrener, Manchester Airport’s Finance Director, was ‘wholly unrealistic’ in some of the demands he placed upon Jennifer and ‘chose to disregard’ confirmation from the newspapers involved that Jennifer wasn’t the source for their stories.”
  • ‘The reason for Jennifer’s dismissal was connected with her membership of the NUJ.”

Walley said in a statement: ‘I believe my case raises serious questions about the senior management operation at Manchester Airport and it is important these are addressed. The tribunal’s findings speak for themselves.

‘I hope that the tribunal’s criticisms of the directors involved will encourage the owners of the airport to properly examine their conduct and behaviour.

‘I would like to pay tribute to my former airport press office colleagues who gave evidence at the hearing. I will always be grateful to them for the courage they have shown.”

The NUJ said that the tribunal gave Walley a basic award of £4,200 plus £13,577 compensation and £8,000 for injury to feelings.

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