Union furious over sacking of M&S worker

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The Independent Online

The GMB union reacted with fury after Marks & Spencer yesterday sacked the employee who leaked to the press details of its plans to cut the redundancy packages of 70,000 staff.

A GMB spokesman said that the IT employee, who has been at the company for more than 25 years and sent the details by email, will receive a paltry £1,200 pay-off. The GMB is to hold a press briefing on Sunday at the TUC's conference with the unnamed person.

He said: "I think it is quite disgraceful – I have never seen anything like that." He contrasted the small payment given to the sacked employee with the lucrative payment received by Steve Esom, the former head of food, who left M&S this summer.

"The guy who [allegedly] messed up on the grocery side gets [a reported] £500,000 whereas our member gets £1,200 after 25 years service for complaining about the cuts in the terms of his conditions of employment."

An M&S spokeswoman confirmed the employee had been "dismissed", but declined to comment on any payment made to the IT employee. The retail giant has never commented on the compensation given to Mr Esom.

The spokeswoman said it took the decision for two reasons. First, because the individual deliberately leaked internal company information and made derogatory and speculative comments to the media – despite it having other internal routes available to address his concerns.

Second, M&S said it could not be confident the individual would not disclose other internal information in this way in the future. The spokeswoman added: "We do not believe that this is a case of 'whistle-blowing' as there has been no wrong-doing by the company."

Maria Ludkin, the legal officer who represented the GMB members at the disciplinary hearing, said: "M&S have shown they are more concerned about maintaining a repressive regime for staff than about promoting open discussion about the direction of the company and the way that the staff are treated."

She added: "Make no mistake, this is a gross act of corporate bullying. GMB will be appealing against this decision in the internal procedures and will launch a public campaign to secure justice."

Another GMB spokesman alleged M&S had an internal audit office, which had acted like the "Gestapo" by investigating the sacked employee. M&S denied it has such an office.

The employee, based at the London head office, contacted the media in August over proposals to reduce redundancy payouts by up to 25 per cent, which some interpreted as a sign of potential forthcoming job cuts. It was reported that the general secretary, Paul Kenny, said: "We are fearful that job cuts are on the way at M&S. Why else would they cut their existing policy if they did not intend to use it?"

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