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September 11, 2012updated 14 Sep 2012 10:02pm

Questions raised over NUJ’s £45k Jeremy Dear payout

By Andrew Pugh

  • Dear received £30,693 in notice payments and £9,444 in lieu of untaken sabbaticals.
  • NUJ branch claims payment was 'reached in secret'
NUJ members have questioned a payment of more than £45,000 made to former general secretary Jeremy Dear after his departure last year.
The union’s Nottingham branch has said that the payout “exposes the curious lack of accountability” in how the union operates. The questions come as the union has been forced to make job cuts in the face of what it has called a "severe financial crisis".
Dear’s term was due to finish in December 2011 but following the unopposed election of former deputy secretary Michelle Stanistreet he officially left the union on 2 July 2011.
He was paid £30,693 in notice payments for the six months between July and December and a further £9,444 in lieu of untaken sabbaticals. The payout also included £5,384 in employers’ NI, the NUJ said.
A memo circulated to members of the 'NUJ Left' group by Nottingham NUJ branch chair Diana Peasey said the pay deal “exposes the curious lack of accountability, transparency and accountability in how the NEC [National executive council operates, how most members on the NEC were misled and also members throughout this union”.
The branch circulated the results of an investigation into the payments by former deputy general secretary Jake Ecclestone, which claims that the agreement "was reached in secret" and was “not authorised by or reported to the National Executive Council by any of those involved”.
“The justification for the payment was that Mr Dear should be compensated for two periods of sabbatical leave which he claimed he had accrued but not taken," said Ecclestone.
“The greater part of the pay-off, however, some £30,000, was said to be for a notice period of six months which he would not be expected to work.
“The explanation for this payment ‘in lieu of notice’ is egregious nonsense. Mr Dear told the then president, Peter Murray, and the treasurer, Anita Halpin, in early January 2011 that he did not intend to seek-re-election later that year.
“His impending departure was reported to a meeting of the National Executive Council on 4 February , and he left in July. Having given and worked six months' notice according to his contract of employment, Mr Dear could not possibly have been entitled to a further six months' money."
'No right to authorise any payment'
Ecclestone also claimed that neither Murray or Halpin had been asked by the NEC to negotiate any payment to Dear, and that as lay members “they had no right to authorise any payment without the explicit sanction of the executive”.
A spokesman for the NUJ told Press Gazette: “No authority was needed because the payment to Jeremy Dear was within his contractual terms.”
When asked why Dear had received the payment in lieu instead of completing his term, the union said: “Jeremy agreed in December 2010 that he would remain in post, up to the end of his contract if necessary, in order to ensure continuity of leadership when his successor started.
“In the event, because Michelle Stanistreet was unopposed there was no election period and because as DGS she was already familiar with the work and could take up the new post after a brief hand-over, Jeremy was not required to serve his full term in the office.
“Nevertheless, Jeremy remained on hand to support and advise Michelle and other officials and reps via email throughout this period.”
The Nottingham branch wants to know why no legal advice was sought over the terms of the payment.
The NUJ told Press Gazette: “Jeremy sought advice from his FoC. There was no reason for the national officers involved to question his advice, particularly as the payment was made in accordance with his contract.”
'It is not a matter of the settlement being 'normal' or not'
In a separate statement the NUJ responded in detail to the points raised by Nottingam Branch.
It said: "Jeremy Dear received payment for untaken sabbaticals and in lieu of six months’ notice.
"This was been reported and endorsed by NEC. This settlement was negotiated and agreed with the union’s president and treasurer at the time, following discussions and advice Mr Dear had with his union rep (Barry Fitzpatrick, now deputy general secretary).
"Mr Dear sought his FoC’s opinion on his contractual terms in December 2010 based on his decision not to seek re-election for a further term as GS. Based on this consultation and negotiation the agreement was reached that the payment was to be made in three parts:
"1) All NUJ staff are entitled to paid sabbaticals. Jeremy had two periods of sabbatical unused and was due payment in lieu for this.
"2) Jeremy agreed in December 2010 that he would remain in post, up to the end of his contract if necessary, in order to ensure continuity of leadership when his successor started. In the event, Michelle Stanistreet’s election to the post unopposed meant that the election period was contracted and Jeremy was not required to serve this in the office because as DGS she was already familiar with the work and could take up the new post after a brief handover. Nevertheless, Jeremy remained on hand to support and advise Michelle and other officials and reps via email throughout this period.
"3) In all other cases where staff have outstanding sabbatical and annual holidays when they leave the NUJ this is paid as a normal contractual entitlement. Also where individuals have left the NUJ and have not worked out their notice period, it has been paid in lieu.
"The figures relating to Jeremy Dear’s settlement have been in the public domain since they were published as part of the 2011 (audited) Annual Accounts
"The NI payment relates to the employer’s contribution. Tax and NI was also of course paid in the normal way by Jeremy Dear.
"It is not a matter of the settlement being 'normal' or not, the sum relates to Jeremy Dear’s contractual entitlement as set out above."

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