Arabic journalist wins case against BBC

Ahmed El Sheikh Ahmed El Sheikh at the recent tribunal hearing

A BBC Arabic journalist has won an employment tribunal against the BBC and has been awarded £9000 in compensation.

Ahmed El Sheikh's complaint that BBC Arabic did not promote him because of his union activities was deemed 'well founded' by the judge.

The tribunal ruled that the decision to deny El Sheikh - the National Union of Journalists' Father of Chapel for BBC Arabic - a senior broadcast journalist post was not based on his 'actual performance' but was 'influenced' by his union work and was taken for 'the main, if not the sole, purpose of penalising the claimant'.

El Sheikh, a broadcast journalist at the time, had applied for one of many SBJ jobs. Despite achieving a top score in the interview process, he was offered instead a six-month attachment, at the end of which a decision would be made about whether it would then be made permanent.

But although his line manager recommended him for the appointment after six months, a panel - led by former BBC Arabic editor Faris Couri - overruled him.

'Tenacious and determined'

The court judged that Couri's reasoning was 'overstated, exaggerated and… provided a very thin evidential basis for a fair and genuine assessment of his overall performance'.

It pointed to the fact that management-union relations within BBC Arabic were in 'an extremely poor state' during this period, with disputes over new rotas, salary issues and allegations of favouritism.

The court concluded that there had been a 'significant change and deterioration in local relations' since El Sheikh became FoC.

It said the claimant was 'extremely tenacious and determined' when it came to defending the terms and conditions of staff and that his approach was 'a matter of real and serious concern' to management. Couri (who has since left the BBC) and hub editor Saleem Patka had 'a fundamental problem with his style as FoC', believed the judge.

A grievance, raised by El Sheikh about being denied the SBJ role, led to him being given a further six-month attachment. This ended in September after which he was given the job.

The tribunal awarded him around £2000 in compensation for loss of earnings between the two attachments - when he returned to a BJ role - and £7000 for injury to feelings.

The BBC said it was 'disappointed' with the judgement and stated that it would be reviewing the decision.

'The BBC takes very seriously its relationship with trade unions and works hard to maintain good relations,' it stated. 'We respect the right of every member of staff to be a member of a union.'

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