Travel boss claims unfair dismissal

A FORMER director at a major Suffolk travel firm yesterday accused his former employers of undermining his position.With 25 years experience in the travel industry, father-of-one Jeremy Paine joined Fred Olsen Travel as general manager in 1996 before being promoted to the firm's divisional director in 2001.

A FORMER director at a major Suffolk travel firm yesterday accused his former employers of undermining his position.

With 25 years experience in the travel industry, father-of-one Jeremy Paine joined Fred Olsen Travel as general manager in 1996 before being promoted to the firm's divisional director in 2001.

Mr Paine had been responsible for Fred Olsen Travel's outlets in Ipswich, Colchester, Felixstowe and Bury St Edmunds and was earning a salary of £46,000 a year.

But an industrial tribunal in Bury St Edmunds yesterday heard how the 50-year-old, formerly of Ipswich but now of Gravesend in Kent, lost out on the job of managing director to Steven Williams in April 2005 after the former post-holder, Paul Brigginshaw, suffered a stroke and took early retirement.


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The currently unemployed Mr Paine claimed his rival Mr Williams was effectively given his job and, as such, meant Mr Paine had been constructively unfairly dismissed by Fred Olsen Travel.

In the wake of Mr Williams' appointment Mr Paine responded by “working to rule”, the tribunal was told. He resigned on June 24 last year.

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But Fred Olsen Travel denies the claim of unfair dismissal, stating that Mr Paine, although a valued and senior member of staff, had never been in a managing director role.

Mr Paine said: “This case is not about who was the better person for the job. It is all about whether the position Mr Williams was appointed to was fundamentally the same job I had already been doing for a number of years and whether his appointment undermined my position to such an extent, that it was impossible for me to continue at Fred Olsen Travel.”

Describing events surrounding his losing out on the managing director post to Mr Williams, Mr Paine claimed his position with the firm had been undermined to such an extent that there had been a “total breakdown in trust and confidence between my employer and myself.”

He claimed he was excluded from director-level lunches, was refused a day off in lieu to tend to his terminally ill mother and how, after losing out on the top job, he was made to feel uncomfortable.

He said: “I assert that their approach was designed to make me feel uncomfortable and want to leave of my own volition.”

Mr Paine, who had been based at the firm's offices at Crown House, Ipswich, told how, during his nine years with the firm, he transformed the retail side of Fred Olsen Travel, something backed by his former line manager Alfred Reeves, how he saved the company from financial disaster following the terrorist attacks on the US in 2001 and how he secured Fred Olsen Travel a deal as official agents for the Commonwealth Games being held in Australia later this year.

The nature of his work, claimed Mr Paine, was effectively that of managing director.

But the firm's current managing director Mr Williams, an accountant by training, claimed that, even before the managing director job became available, he was more senior within the firm - demonstrated by the fact his salary as financial controller was 26% higher.

In his statement to the tribunal bench, Mr Williams praised Mr Paine's strength in sales and marketing but added: “I believe that part of the reason why Mr Paine sometimes appeared dismissive of my ability was that he would not have been aware of the full range of senior tasks I was fulfilling across the group.”

Mr Williams also claimed he was “sensitive” to Mr Paine's feelings about not getting the managing director post adding: “I wanted to avoid treading on his toes.”

The firm's human resources manager, Shelly Melvein, was present at the interviews of both Mr Paine and Mr Williams for the managing directorship of Fred Olsen Travel.

She said the appointment process had been carried out in “a fair and consistent manner” and that although Mr Paine's presentation was more “polished” Mr Williams had shown a “distinctly new approach” to the business.

The tribunal continues.

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