Bullied business reporter wins dismissal case

A former Press & Journal business reporter has won his case for constructive dismissal against Aberdeen Journals following his claims of bullying and harassment by two of the newspaper’s senior executives.

Inverness-based Bob King, 65, was awarded £5,320 after an employment tribunal in Aberdeen found in his favour by a majority decision.

The tribunal found King’s evidence throughout “appeared credible and he did not appear inclined to exaggerate or invent matters”.

The finding said it was clear from the correspondence that King and the Institute of Journalists were attempting to obtain a satisfactory resolution of the matter but the response from Aberdeen Journals was “extremely unreasonable”.

A three-day tribunal heard witnesses claim that King had been bullied and harassed by business editor Joe Watson and the paper’s energy editor Ian Forsyth, and his stories had often been changed unnecessarily.

King, who had worked for the paper for six years, was signed off by his doctor in December 2002 with stress and resigned in March 2003.

The then IoJ general secretary, Chris Underwood, wrote to Press & Journal editor Derek Tucker seeking early retirement on King’s behalf because of ill-health.

The tribunal finding said: “Aberdeen Journals did not recognise the IoJ. Mr Tucker’s own personal policy so far as Mr Underwood was concerned was that he was not prepared to even answer any correspondence from Mr Underwood.”

Watson and Forsyth both testified that they had not harassed King.

Watson claimed his work was full of errors and his stories often contradicted themselves.

Counsel for Aberdeen Journals claimed King had rejected three offers to invoke the company’s grievance procedures and suggested the real reason he had resigned was because his pay had been reduced in line with company policy on long-term sickness.

The majority view of the tribunal was that the treatment of King by Watson and Forsyth “did amount to bullying and harassment”.

The minority view was that what Watson and Forsyth were doing “amounted to no more than their job as managers”.

King said he was delighted with the outcome. “I wasn’t seeking any financial compensation. All I wanted to do was to clear my name and to prove that I was very badly treated.”

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