Call for charity to re-instate workers
A VETERAN union leader representing two suspended charity workers has called on bosses to recognise their “incredible” work and allow them to help the homeless once again.
Jim D’Avila has taken up the cases of street outreach workers Tony Niester and James Derieg, whose disciplinary hearings were held yesterday by Threshold Housing Link.
The pair spoke out in June to allege a range of problems with governance, disciplinary procedures and conflicts of interest at the charity.
These have been consistently denied by operations director Phil Smith , chief executive officer Cher Sawyer-Smith and the charity’s board of trustees.
Mr D’Avila said: “The right decision is to allow two workers, who were model employees, to continue in their roles on the condition they won’t do some of the things they have been accused of doing.
“They are both outstanding professionals who did have some genuine grievances which they raised through the official whistleblowing procedure.
“I have expressed the view that these concerns and complaints were not served well at all by that process.”
Mr Niester, 39 and Mr Derieg, 49, excelled in winning the trust of some of the hardest to reach people on Swindon’s streets and had both been made employees of the year for 2011.
Mr D’Avila, an experienced negotiator for the Unite union, said: “They have both been recognised as excellent workers and are extremely well respected within the profession. They have been incredibly effective on the streets.
“Regardless of the differences aired, the charity will be poorer without them.
“I have stressed that on their return they should be told what is expected of them in the future and be allowed to serve the people the charity is supposed to serve.”
The row, which erupted after the pair’s concerns appeared in the Adver, lasted for months and led to an independent review of the charity’s whistleblowing procedures.
It resulted in the charity being largely exonerated but given advice on how to improve its practices.
The spat included claims – denied by the management – that thousands of pounds had been wasted on pay-offs and fees to a consultant, and codes of conduct had been broken.
Threshold supports about 1,000 homeless people each year by offering accommodation, advice and support.
A spokeswoman for the charity said: “The disciplinary hearings are an internal matter, being held in private and we hope to see a speedy conclusion for the benefit of all concerned.”
Mr Niester and Mr Derieg will be notified of the decision early next week.