Threshold workers sacked after refusing to be gagged
1:08pm Wednesday 10th October 2012 in By Josh Layton
TWO street outreach workers have been fired by a homeless charity after refusing to fall silent about a series of concerns in return for payoffs amounting to more than £3,500 each.
Tony Niester and James Derieg were sacked by Threshold Housing Link on Monday for using the Adver to allege problems with financial arrangements, governance and conflicts of interests.
The whistleblowers were model employees who had been recognised in the charity’s publicity material for their outstanding work until the clash with the senior management.
Jim D’Avila, the pair’s representative at Unite union, said: “It’s a sad day when two outreach workers publicly recognised as being at the top of their class lose their livelihoods in this way.
“Their only crime was to publicly expose wrong-doings on the part of the senior management which were difficult to defend. They refused the money on principle because they wanted to stick to their belief that Threshold needs to become a better and more accountable charity.
“Is it just that they should be sacked for this? Their disciplinaries did not mention any of the issues they raised, which have been consistently ignored throughout the whole affair.
“Today there is a vacuum on the streets where two men of integrity and honesty once helped the homeless, disposed and vulnerable. Sadly, there is also still a lot wrong at Threshold. But they feel vindicated in having spoken out. They felt they couldn’t simply ignore what was taking place.”
The employees were suspended in June over the claims and another report in the Adver about thousands of pounds of fees paid by the charity to HR consultant Christine Pratt.
The row led to an independent review of Threshold’s whistleblowing procedures.
Mr D’Avila said: “In the days, weeks and months since they have been suspended they have been touched by the support of the public. They want to thank the client group, the volunteers, their fellow workers and the other services, including DHI, Inclusion and the Breakfast Club and Filling Station. They hope that those in need on the streets in Swindon will come to show the same trust in the people who replace them.”
Mr Derieg, 49, and Mr Niester, 39, were offered £3,630 each in the form of a compromise agreement but would have had to have stayed silent about their grievances.
A spokeswoman for Threshold said: “Two people have been dismissed from Threshold after much consideration and a thorough disciplinary process. This was an internal matter which was handled by the trustees in accordance with employment law.”