Sunday 23 October 2016

Award of €55,000 to writer is voided for rehearing

Published 01/10/2015 | 02:30

An award of €55,000 for unfair dismissal to a former writer at Independent News & Media has been declared void, because the company had not been made aware that the hearing was taking place.

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The Employment Appeals Tribunal hearing has now opened to rehear the case of Catherine Murphy, a writer for the ‘Weekend’ magazine of the Irish Independent for a period of 15 months from August 2011.

Ms Murphy has worked for 30 years as a journalist and had previously worked for the Evening Herald newspaper.

She subsequently worked as a freelance journalist, submitting features to a range of national newspapers.

She told the tribunal that in May 2010 she emailed the then editor of the Irish Independent, Gerry O’Regan, to ask for freelance work and he put her in touch with the then editor of the ‘Weekend’ magazine, Yvonne Hogan. Following that, she did a number of articles for which she was paid individually or on a ‘piece-by-piece’ basis.

In the summer of 2011, Ms Murphy said she received a phone call from Ms Hogan.

Ms Murphy claimed that she was offered a full-time position, writing cover stories or big reads for ‘Weekend’ magazine. She claimed that Ms Hogan told her she would not be able to fulfill this position as a freelancer but that she would be working outside the office, five days a week, for eight hours a day.

She said she was offered €1,100 a week for the role and was told that she would not be able to work for any other newspaper.

Ms Murphy said that Ms Hogan asked her to go and meet the then Managing Editor at INM, Michael Denieffe, in order to discuss the terms of her contract.

They met in the first week of September 2011 and Ms Murphy said she asked about holiday and sick pay.

She negotiated an extra €100 a week and said she understood that her earnings would be gross, with tax taken at source.

Ms Murphy said she left with the understanding that she would be coming back to sign the contract. However, she did not receive any contract.

In November 2012, with a change of editorship at the Irish Independent, Ms Murphy said she was told she would be asked to write more celebrity pieces but was unhappy about this.

When she came back from a week’s holiday at Christmas, she was told that her “contract was gone” and that this was due to financial cutbacks.

The hearing will continue on November 24 and 25.

Irish Independent

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