‘No basis for charge of gross misconduct’ by NLW staff

AN EMPLOYMENT tribunal judgement has found that two members of staff at the National Library of Wales, both FDA members, were unfairly dismissed from their jobs under allegations of gross misconduct.

The National Library of Wales - Visit Wales

The National Library of Wales – Visit Wales

Arwel Jones and Elwyn Williams were initially suspended and later demoted, after concerns over a procurement exercise during which there were some technical breaches. It has already been accepted by the National Library that there was no question of fraud.

Judge J Thomas found that there was “no basis for a charge of gross misconduct”, and that “the failure had not been one of misconduct but capability”, brought about by a failure on the Library’s part to provide training. The judge found respondents from the National Library of Wales to be “opaque and disengaged”, and stated that they gave “misleading answers”. He said that:

“The disciplinary process has been conducted with a lack of commitment on the part of the respondent and an element of antagonism and defensiveness.”

The tribunal was brought by the two men when they were demoted two grades at work after facing a disciplinary process. They admitted making mistakes in a tendering process but had said they had not been trained in the area. In his judgement, Judge Thomas said:

“I do not find that the punishment imposed was proportionate.”

He took into account the inexperience of both claimants and the limited evidence of “actual as opposed to potential detriment to the respondent”, and added that “There was no suggestion of dishonesty or ‘wilful’ misconduct.” He said that the library’s chief executive Dr Aled Gruffydd Jones had made a misjudgement in the way he had handled the disciplinary process, and the two men should only have been given a warning.

Paul Neilson, FDA National Officer for Wales, stated that:

“This case should never have been brought to tribunal. Not only has it taken up a great deal of many people’s time, It has already cost the Library a considerable sum of public money, believed to be around £70,000. We tried to agree a settlement to this case from the very beginning – up to the first day of the tribunal – but without success. The judge has completely vindicated us in finding that demotion was a breach of contract and a breach of trust and confidence.”

“The disciplinary panel of trustees did not seek explanations or give proper consideration to the issue and points raised, with the chair of that panel being described as ‘wholly unconvincing’ and the Librarian “disingenuous”. The Judge also questioned the auditors’ methodology and judgment. This does seem to call into question the decision making of senior management and the governance of the Library.”

A remedies hearing which was set for 9th and 10th February has been postponed in order for the parties to try and agree a settlement, as suggested by the Judge.