Suspended Union Official Re-instated

A NATIONAL Union of Journalists’ representative at the Evening Times newspaper has been re-instated, following his suspension.

Gordon Thomson, a deputy ‘father of chapel’ and reporter at the paper, had returned to his desk from an union meeting at Friday lunchtime only to be suspended by his editor, Donald Martin.

And in a memo to staff, informing them of the suspension lifting, Martin says he’s “happy to put this issue behind us”.

Says Martin: “It has been made clear to the individual and the NUJ that we expect and require a protocol to be followed in seeking permission to deal with union matters. On this pragmatic basis we will impose no further sanctions in relation to this matter.”

The suspension was the latest incident in an increasingly fractious stand-off between the NUJ and the Herald group of newspapers, following proposed compulsory redundancy at the Evening Times. Already, there have been two walk-outs by staff across the group. Another, specifically at the Evening Times, is scheduled for Friday. Staff are also working to rule.

Added Martin: “This is a difficult time for all staff and I am aware that feelings are running high. It was unfortunate, therefore, that several attempts to have an informal meeting, for the very purpose of avoiding confrontation, were refused. The informal meeting was intended to outline protocols for absence from work to avoid any future misunderstandings. Had I chosen to do so, I could have treated an unauthorised absence on Friday as a disciplinary matter but chose not to do so in an effort to maintain working relationships.

“Management have a right to issue reasonable instructions (such as a request to attend a meeting) to employees who are obliged to follow them. Failure to comply with a reasonable request or instruction can lead to disciplinary action.

“In order to avoid yet more unnecessary and unhelpful confrontation, I am prepared to accept that the informal meeting was erroneously perceived as a formal disciplinary hearing, despite no attempt being made to discover the nature and purpose of the meeting. All disciplinary meetings are notified to an individual in advance and are scheduled by the Herald & Times Group in full compliance with statutory and our own disciplinary procedures.

“I am happy to put this issue behind us and concentrate on the more important business of trying to safeguard the future of the newspaper.”

The lifting of the suspension means at least one boycott of the Evening Times will be lifted. At the weekend, a group representing trade unionists with the SNP had declared a boycott until Thomson was re-instated. But convener, Anne McNair, who is with the UNISON trade union, said: “We will continue to keep an eye on what’s happening at [Evening Times’ owner] Newsquest.”