Rep on misconduct charge being 'victimised' says NUJ

Misconduct charge: Evening Mail industrial correspondent and FoC Morley

The NUJ is fighting to save the job of its representative at the Birmingham Post & Mail accused by the company of “misconduct”.

Editor-in-chief Roger Borrell has instituted disciplinary proceedings against Father of Chapel Chris Morley as a result of an e-mail he sent last month.

The news comes at a time when the union is opposing job cuts at the Trinity Mirror-owned company.

Zannah Lewis, a Birmingham Post & Mail trainee reporter and NUJ member, has already been dismissed for alleged gross misconduct over an e-mail she sent to contacts.

The NUJ is viewing the situation so seriously that Morley, who has been with the Post & Mail for 20 years, is being represented at the hearings, which began last Thursday, by general secretary Jeremy Dear.

Dear said: “We consider this a case of victimisation and the fact that I have chosen to represent Chris shows how seriously we view it.”

He said the allegations were based on an e-mail sent by Morley in his role as NUJ FoC on 23 October.

Management instituted disciplinary proceedings to consider the content and context of the e-mail, which “may constitute an act of misconduct”.

A further hearing on Monday – at which Morley and Dear expected to hear the result of the proceedings – continued for some hours and has been adjourned until 17 November, while an exchange of documents between the Post & Mail and Morley and the NUJ takes place.

Press Gazette understands the allegation hinges on a suggestion in the e-mail by Morley – reporting on the latest developments – that it would be useful if the recipients could let their contacts know about the growing dispute at the company.

Dear said the company was not objecting to the fact that Morley had written to local MPs and the leader of Birmingham City Council outlining the nature of the dispute, but rather to the content and context of the e-mail.

The Post & Mail has this year made a series of redundancies in editorial across all its West Midlands titles, culminating in October in the sacking of nine senior Post editorial executives, correspondents and a designer.

In one of the cuts, the company decided to combine the role of parliamentary correspondent for both titles in London, previously held by Jonathan Walker for the Birmingham Post and Shaun Connolly for the Evening Mail. Walker has been appointed to the role.

Trinity Mirror management in Birmingham is now believed to be seeking further redundancies in advertising, circulation and other backroom functions.

Morley was not prepared to comment on his own case while disciplinary proceedings were under way.

The NUJ balloted members over the redundancies, asking whether they would firstly sanction industrial action short of an all-out strike or, secondly, to include a strike.

The result was a clear mandate for industrial action short of an all-out strike. The chapel has said it will work to rule and keep to a 37-hour week from Sunday week.

A Trinity Mirror spokesman said: “We confirm an employee is currently subject to a disciplinary investigation, but we would not comment on individuals while the case is ongoing.”

By Andy Skinner

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