Wednesday 29 March 2017

Workers angry about media coverage

MANY of the staff at UNICEF's Dublin office were unhappy to find themselves drawn into media coverage of Melanie Verwoerd's dismissal.

The charity workers were featured in a series of pictures taken of the 43-year-old when she visited the offices on Lower Ormond Quay last Monday.

Sources say Ms Verwoerd had been given the option of her belongings being returned to her but insisted on picking them up herself.

However, staff were unaware that as they helped Ms Verwoerd to remove boxes from the office that they were being photographed, with the images syndicated to national newspapers.

The photographer involved had no link to Ms Verwoerd.

Meanwhile, sources within UNICEF have come forward to give their side of the week-long fallout.

In a statement issued on Tuesday night, the charity denied Ms Verwoerd had been dismissed by e-mail arbitrarily or without notification that this course of action was a possibility.

However, speaking to the Irish Independent last night, a source said: "It's one hell of a situation if you are heading off on a different trajectory to what your bosses want.

"Where someone comes to an impasse with their board as to where the charity is going, should it be the case that the board rolls over for one person, where that person can vote down the wishes of nine others? An organisation cannot run on that basis."

While UNICEF sources don't doubt Ms Verwoerd's vocation, there ended up being "significant differences" between Ms Verwoerd and the board.

"These differences couldn't be resolved so it was unanimously decided to end Ms Verwoerd's contract. There were negotiations with her solicitor with termination conditions of her contract paid in full, and, in addition, two years' salary paid in respect of the settlement."

Damages

"Ms Verwoerd has reserved her right to pursue an Employment Appeals Tribunal and damages. But would somebody expect to be reappointed in the face of a board that had unanimously dismissed them?" asked the source.

The insider said it was up to Ms Verwoerd if the impasse became public or not, and the manner in which it became public.

"These could have been agreed in a joint statement without any of this. What we have seen is someone very media savvy at work."

Much of the headlines that began last weekend have linked Ms Verwoerd's dismissal to her association to the late broadcaster Gerry Ryan. A UNICEF source strongly denied this.

"Gerry, with respect, is in the past. This whole situation arose over a disagreement about the future. It wasn't about one person, or even about UNICEF," the source said.

The insider claimed that the mother of two's role in increasing donations to UNICEF had been "overplayed".

"Ms Verwoerd wasn't the only person raising money. She was part of a team. There were very significant amounts raised by other board members in which Ms Verwoerd played no part."

Irish Independent

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