Official sues union over stress

By Jon PettyA TEACHING union has been accused of putting one of its own officers under such stress that she had to quit.Angela Mahoney told an employment tribunal she believed the NASUWT had also sexually discriminated against her.

By Jon Petty

A TEACHING union has been accused of putting one of its own officers under such stress that she had to quit.

Angela Mahoney told an employment tribunal she believed the NASUWT had also sexually discriminated against her. The case is being strongly contested by the union.

Mrs Mahoney, of Northgate Avenue, Bury St Edmunds had worked as the union's regional official from January 1998 until she left in September 2002, claiming unfair dismissal.


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She told the Bury St Edmunds tribunal yesterday that initially she had been responsible for union members in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and most of Cambridgeshire.

But just over a year later that was extended to include Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Luton and Peterborough, increasing the number of teachers she was responsible for by 58%.

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Mrs Mahoney said she asked for additional staff, telling the union's HQ that she was trying not to work excessive hours in an effort to avoid becoming stressed.

But when help did arrive, it was in the form of a regional organiser who added to her stress and her eventual decision that she must leave, she added.

Some of the duties of the regional organiser, Tim Beech, overlapped with hers and staff at the NASUWT regional office in Bury St Edmunds became confused about what to do.

Mrs Mahoney said Mr Beech had been intent on changing everything in the office without first examining how it worked and his attitude towards her had been one of criticism.

At the same time Mrs Mahoney said her health had started to decline and she had consulted her GP about the possible impact of stress on the epilepsy from which she had suffered for 35 years. She was also referred to a counsellor.

By January 2002 the situation had become so acute that Mrs Mahoney's doctor told her she needed six months off from work. She claimed Mr Beech had suggested she was using her epilepsy as "an excuse".

Mrs Mahoney said: "I was shocked. At this time I was becoming very ill. My counsellor saw this and she thought I might be hospitalised at this point and so did the GP".

The next day she tried to return to work to prevent a build-up of casework. She said: "I wanted to get on with the job I was good at, but I had been worn down trying to make it all work".

A week later Mrs Mahoney's doctor signed her off sick and she remained away from her job until she ceased to be an employee.

While off sick, Mrs Mahoney had decided to lodge a formal grievance about her treatment, but said senior officials in the NASUWT appeared reluctant to progress it.

She added a doctor who examined her on behalf of the union concluded she had been suffering from stress and had been unfit for work, but in a letter from NASUWT assistant general secretary, Jerry Bartlett, the union had questioned whether her illness had been genuine.

The NASUWT declined to keep Mrs Mahoney on full pay which, she claimed, was in contrast to the treatment of male colleagues.

The union, which Mrs Mahoney alleged had few women officers, said she had not gained the necessary extensive service to qualify.

The tribunal continues today.

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