Threshold workers’appeals against sacking rejected

Tony Niester and James Derieg

Tony Niester and James Derieg

First published in News by

TWO street outreach workers who were sacked by a Swindon homeless charity for speaking out against their bosses have lost appeals against their dismissals.

Tony Niester and James Derieg were fired by Threshold Housing Link after refusing to drop their complaints in return for payoffs of more than £3,500 each.

They had been disciplined for using the Adver to allege a series of problems with financial arrangements, governance and conflicts of interests.

Their appeals were conducted several weeks ago by John Phipps, of Voluntary Action Swindon, at Threshold’s offices in Swindon town centre.

The whistleblowers argued that they had made a ‘protected disclosure’ by approaching the media to raise concerns about the way the charity was being managed.

But their dismissals on the grounds of gross misconduct were upheld.

Mr Niester said: “We still believe we did the right thing and we would call on the membership to take this further as we know they are ultimately the ones to hold the management to account.

“We exhausted every internal process before we spoke publicly, and externally we went to the Charities Commission. “We acknowledged we broke the media policy but argued that we spoke out because we genuinely believed something was going wrong with the charity. “ The former model employees are now planning to fight their dismissals at employment tribunals.

Mr Derieg said: “We will contest our dismissals on the grounds that we made protected disclosures, but we also want to clear our names.

“Ideally we would have a public debate with trustees and the management on the one side of the table and us on the other. “If, after that, the membership decide we were still wrong we go away and shut up forever.”

The row led to an independent review of Threshold’s whistleblowing procedures after the employees were suspended in June last year. Mr Derieg, 50, and Mr Niester, 40, were offered £3,630 each in the form of a compromise agreement but would have had to have stayed silent about their grievances.

Threshold’s outreach service is in doubt after an annual Swindon Council grant of £20,000 was axed last month as part of a cost-cutting drive.

A spokeswoman for Threshold said: “Appeal hearings have taken place and the decision to dismiss two individuals was upheld. This was an internal matter and details remain confidential.”

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