An Essex journalist who said she lost her job because TV bosses wanted younger faces to present news reports has lost her age discrimination claim.
Dianne Stradling, 53, accused the company of dressing up her old job with a new title to enable them to hand it to a younger colleague during a major revamp as part of a plan to save millions of pounds.
But following a two-day hearing at Bury St Edmunds in January, an employment tribunal panel has dismissed her allegations of age related discrimination and unfair dismissal against ITV Anglia.
Announcing the decision of the panel, Employment Judge Brian Mitchell said: “The bare fact of a difference in age and a difference in treatment does not go far enough to establish a prima facie case”.
Judge Mitchell said of the posts which Mrs Stradling had failed to be selected for, three had gone to people aged under 40 and three to over 40s which did not put ITV Anglia in a position where the company needed to disprove allegations of age discrimination.
Stradling, who lives near Braintree, had told the tribunal that her 18 years service with the company as a news reporter appeared to count for little when she was forced to apply for a new role.
She claimed that the team given the job of selecting successful candidates had already made up their mind at the time her application was submitted about who would get a post and she had not been among them.
The successful 29-year-old applicant who was handed what she claimed was her former job but with a different title managed to get maximum marks for questions on her application form even though she had filled in parts of it wrongly, claimed Stradling.
Stradling said that since leaving ITV Anglia she had spoken to three of the people who were given new posts titled correspondent and all had confirmed that it involved exactly the same work as she had been doing as a part-time reporter.
The tribunal heard how Stradling, along with all other staff in ITV Anglia’s news department, had been told in the autumn of 2007 that her job no longer existed and that she must reapply for one of a smaller number of new posts if she wished to remain working for the company.
That led to the loss of around 30 staff as ITV axed £40 million from it’s local news budget. At ITV Anglia the news operation was reduced from 116 staff, some part time, to 70.
Head of ITV human resources, Richard Thurston, told the tribunal that he believed the cutbacks which heralded a reorganisation of news programmes across the ITV network, had been handled as fairly and openly as possible.
David Jennings, who at the time had been head of news at ITV Anglia, said the selection process for candidates for the new, smaller number of jobs available and which he had helped to draft, had been “exhaustive and completely transparent”.
It had been made clear from the outset that everyone within ITV Anglia’s news department would be affected and that everyone would have to apply for a new job, said Jennings.
Jennings said that Stradling had come ninth out of the 18 candidates for the jobs within her field that were on offer but there had been only seven posts to fill.
Strongly denying claims of age discrimination, Jennings said that three of the successful candidates had been aged over forty and one over fifty.
In the tribunal judgement, Judge Mitchell said the difficulty which Stradling faced in bringing her claims was the decision, accepted by the tribunal, by ITV to make £40 million worth of savings which required reduced staffing levels.
Consultation carried out with staff by ITV had been meaningful and unions had not opposed the process or criteria, said Judge Mitchell. The pool of those who were to be able to apply for new posts had also been subject to negotiation.
Judge Mitchell said: “The Respondent (ITV) carried out the exercise in a manner which was open to a reasonable employer with the acceptance of the unions both locally and nationally and the employee representatives”.