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BT engineer drops sick leave claim

A FORMER British Telecom engineer, who lost his job after taking more than 1,100 days' sick leave, yesterday withdrew his claim for unfair dismissal.

Michael Stoneham, 43, of Wapping, east London, who worked at BT's Clerkenwell depot for 16 years, decided to do so after it became apparent that he had consented to medical retirement. Michael McDonough, his representative, said: 'It is clear that my client has been less than frank with me and his union.'

Ebury Bridge industrial tribunal in London was told that he had been absent from work for a total of 1,158 days since 1975. In one year, he took 334 days off, including 25 days for a cold, and 26 days for salmonella poisoning.

Mr Stoneham's catalogue of illness began when he injured his back in an industrial accident in 1975. He was awarded a lump sum of pounds 16,000 and kept his pounds 15,000-a- year salary despite being moved to light duties. In 1991, he was also awarded a pounds 14,000 lump sum from his union pension fund.

Ordering him to pay pounds 200 costs, Stella Hollis, the tribunal chairwoman, said: 'It is quite clear that the case should never have been brought, and Mr Stoneham you are lucky not to be faced with the full costs.'

After the hearing, Mr Stoneham said: 'They were gunning for me and they got what they wanted. I thought I had a case. They wanted to get rid of me for years. It didn't come out as it should have come out and I am desperately disappointed.'