THE Bullivant newspaper business, which produces the Redditch, Bromsgrove and Droitwich Standards, has been ordered to pay a former sales director more than £22,000 after she was unfairly dismissed.

Lesley McWhirter of Jourdain Park, Warwick, aged 52,  who served the Bullivant family for 24 years, also successfully defended a counter claim against her.

Mrs McWhirter, who was paid nearly £34,000 a year, had sought compensation at Birmingham Employment Tribunal against Bullivant Media of Redditch, and complained she was involved in a dispute about a bonus with the respondents.

She also complained that after the collapse of the Bullivant-run Birmingham Press newspaper in 2010 she was accused of being responsible for the “weakening of the Bullivant media”.

This was because of her alleged “poor performance,” it had been alleged.
The firm had opposed Mrs McWhirter’s compensation claim, alleged she had resigned and said they wanted her to stay.

The firm had 120 staff at the time with a turnover of more than £6 million, it was said.

The tribunal had been told at a previous tribunal hearing that the Observer Standard newspaper, for whom Mrs McWhirter had been sales director, was sold to Bullivant Media Ltd in April 2009 after going into administration and her employment was transferred. But she did not agree with the new contract “which was different and detriment” and she refused to sign it.

Mrs McWhirter complained her business card was changed from sales director to director of sales and alleged she was constantly excluded from board meetings.

She also complained that Pat Bullivant, a management member and wife of Christopher Bullivant, accused of her of being responsible for the weakening performance of the Bullivant Media because of her alleged poor performance

“I became fed up with the company – they did not want me to stay,” she said at the previous hearing. “I was told there was no money for an exit package.”

Tribunal judge David Dimbylow said at the previous hearing that a decision would be made at a later date.  Now he has found in favour of Mrs McWhirter.

Mr Dimbylow referred to an email sent to Mrs McWhirter by Mrs Bullivant which he said shocked and surprised the claimaint.

The email said: “We are trying to save money wherever we can, and not cut back on jobs or papers, and this, as you know, is because of the dreadful shortfall in our sales revenues achieved against sales targets agreed with you.

“You know how much pressure these shortfalls put us under when we are paying suppliers. I cannot understand why you would allow these bad practices to occur and continue to go on, costing the company a not inconsiderable amount each month; and sadly why you would rail at me when these bad practices are brought to your attention.”

Mr Dimbylow described Mrs McWhirter as articulate and intelligent as well as being open and honest.

“She trusted Mrs Bullivant, having known her for so many years,” he said. "She thought that they could have an open conversation about how they might come to an amicable resolution.”

Mr Dimbylow said that whenever there was a conflict on material fact during the tribunal hearing, he preferred the evidence of Mrs McWhirter.
“Frequently, when asked a simple question Mrs Bullivant went off at a tangent or answered a different question,” he said.

Mr Dimbylow said the tribunal decision was that Mrs McWhirter had been unfairly dismissed and awarded her a total of £22,071. He added that the tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear the respondents’ counter claim, alleging a breach of contract.