The much-respected office services manager at Trinity Mirror’s Canary Wharf head office has spoken of his hurt at being sacked after 34 years, with just a £500 pay-off.
If he had been made redundant, Robin Heel would have qualified for £40,000, and he had just six years left until he could have retired on a full pension.
Trinity Mirror told Heel he was dismissed because he failed to act when one of his staff was caught on CCTV removing two bottles of wine from boxes delivered to the postroom.
He contends that he merely observed the postroom supervisor (who himself had 29 years experience) “being inquisitive” around the boxes, and believes that his sacking after years of unblemished service did not fit his alleged crime, but was merely an excuse to save the company a redundancy payout.
Heel said that more than 30 colleagues had petitioned management, asking for his reinstatement. He showed Press Gazette about a dozen written references, including one from a senior journalist, who said: “I always found him to be helpful, honest and prepared to put himself out for others. I understand he is lodging an appeal and I hope it will be looked upon with the compassion he would show others.” Former Mirror Group political editor David Seymour, who himself was made redundant at Christmas, said: “I knew him from when he arrived at the age of 16 straight from school. He was always incredibly helpful. Trinity Mirror cut the staff down and he had more and more work put on him.
“Of all the people they could get rid of, I thought it wouldn’t be him, because he was such a conscientious employee. People in editorial were absolutely shocked and disgusted by how he was treated.” Heel’s dismissal came in December 2005, when the company was looking to make redundancies in the postroom.
He said of the incident on 20 December which led to his sacking: “There were two-and-a-half minutes between the incident taking place and security rushing in, all guns blazing, like the SAS. In that time, there’s not much you can do.” Heel said that his sacked colleague would have qualified for a redundancy payout of £29,000.
He said: “I think it was very harsh.
He was under a lot of stress and he said ‘sorry, I made a mistake’. It was the first mistake he had made.” In a letter dated 3 February, Trinity Mirror explained why they thought Heel deserved to be sacked. The letter said he had “observed” the supervisor’s actions, “but did nothing to prevent them, resulting in a breakdown in the trust and confidence that the company placed in you as the manager of the department”.
Heel said: “I couldn’t tell my wife and kids what had happened until after Christmas, because I knew how much it would upset them. When I did come out with it, we went through a bad time.
It’s been difficult financially, but we’re getting by.” He added: “It’s the emotional side of things I find hard sometimes — [it’s] the people that I miss most.” Heel has exhausted his appeal options at Trinity Mirror via the company’s internal procedures, and said a legal adviser had told him the case would not stand up in a tribunal.
A Trinity Mirror spokesman said: “The company acted entirely properly throughout and followed all relevant procedures.
As far as we are concerned the matter has been closed for some time.”