NUJ hit by £1/2m claim for damages

Fighting her corner: Disabled journalist Ju Gosling is seeking £500,000 compensation from the NUJ after winning her disability claim in London

The National Union of Journalists is facing a claim for £500,000 in compensation over its treatment of a disabled conference delegate.

If a tribunal panel accepts the full damages claim by Ju Gosling, it would knock a major hole in the union’s finances – the NUJ’s entire income for 2003 was just under £4 million. The tribunal has yet to decide the size of the payout but it could turn out to be far less.

The union declined to comment pending the decision which is expected in six weeks’ time.

The claim was submitted by leading human rights law firm, Imran Khan and Partners, earlier this week, during a five-day hearing.

The damages’ hearing at the London Central Employment Tribunal followed an employment tribunal in January 2003, which found that the NUJ had breached the Disability Discrimination Act in its treatment of Gosling. The freelance journalist and wheelchair-user suffers from a degenerative spinal condition. She claimed that she developed further illness due to the lack of provision made for her at the 2000 NUJ conference in Ennis, Ireland.

According to her solicitor Lawrence Davies, the £500,000 claim includes payments for pain and suffering, loss of current and future earnings and injury to feelings. He said be believed that the NUJ is not covered by insurance for the claim.

Gosling said an NUJ assistant who was supposed to help her travel from her home in London to the conference did not turn up. She says she then had access problems when she arrived at the conference and the NUJ failed to cater for her non-dairy dietary requirement.

She said: “It was one cock-up after another from the minute I left home.When I got to the conference it was impossible to do anything without help and that help was not forthcoming.”

Gosling said she became ill midway through the conference and had to fly home. Her electric wheelchair was then damaged when it was flown back separately by the NUJ.

She said: “When I came back I had extremely high blood pressure after having extremely stable blood pressure for 20 years. I couldn’t hear or see properly.”

She added: “They (NUJ) simply don’t care about disability rights. I have yet to receive an apology.

Worse still, their official view seems to be that they are the victim, not me.”

Gosling said her health has still not recovered and that doctors believe her condition was stress-related and due to her experience at the NUJ conference.

Dominic Ponsford

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