A photojournalist has said he may file a claim of unfair dismissal against Newsquest after the publisher made him redundant while he was undergoing chemotherapy.
Geoff Abbott, who worked for Welsh daily The Leader for the past four years, called the company “extremely callous” for the way the redundancy consultation process added to his stress during the treatment.
The 59-year-old was diagnosed with an uncommon form of bone marrow cancer last year and took paid leave in late spring to undergo treatment. His employment formally ended yesterday.
Abbott worked in the Royal Air Force and the aircraft industry before moving permanently into journalism in 2007.
He told Press Gazette he believed the stress from his redundancy could explain the sudden progression of his illness from intermediate to high risk.
Myelofibrosis, which affects the bone marrow’s ability to produce healthy blood cells, can potentially be cured with a stem cell transplant.
A match for Abbott has been found from a donor in Switzerland, leaving him “overwhelmed with gratitude,” but he said: “Recently, and during the redundancy process, the illness became aggressive and I had to have treatment brought forward before I can have the transplant.”
He has undergone 23 doses of chemotherapy over the past ten days and also had 11 blood transplants and three platelet transfusions in the space of five days.
“I found the redundancy consultation so annoying and stressful that I asked the National Union of Journalists representative to handle it for me,” Abbott said.
“Newsquest should have considered this under their duty of care towards employees and in that sense they carried on therefore acting in an extremely callous way.”
Abbott did however say that he understood Newsquest had to do “what they think is right to protect their business”.
He is now considering pursuing a claim of unfair dismissal on the grounds of age or disability discrimination. He claimed those put at risk of redundancy were the older and more experienced members of staff.
A Newsquest spokesperson said: “Following a review of the North Wales business, the company has decided to reduce the number of photographers we have.
“This has unfortunately led to the redundancy of Geoff Abbott following the conclusion of a consultation process.
“We would like to thank Geoff for his contribution to the business and wish him well with his ongoing recovery from ill health.”
Abbott also said he believes Newsquest, which bought The Leader’s parent company NWN Media in 2017, has been making too many cuts, leaving him worried about “the quality of the product for customers and advertisers”.
Two photographer roles were axed late last year while another was made redundant alongside Abbott in the latest round of staff cuts, meaning The Leader has lost four in the past year.
The four photographers’ schedules were always busy, according to Abbott, who claimed the paper now features blurry and poorly lit pictures in which people can look “unrecognisable”.
A Newsquest spokesperson confirmed one photographer remains employed within its North Wales business, which also includes weeklies the North Wales Chronicle, Denbighshire Free Press and Powys County Times.
Picture: Geoff Abbott