Victim Support Charity In Payout Over Two Sackings

An Ulster charity has been forced to shell out almost £35,000 after two employees were sacked – one of them via a voice message left on their phone.

Victim Support Northern Ireland dismissed two branch managers almost two years ago, after each failed to attend separate meetings with their boss.

But Omagh woman Marilyn Giboney (52), and Brenda Faulkner (51), from Belfast, took their case to an industrial tribunal, which ruled they had both been unfairly dismissed by the organisation.

Mrs Giboney was awarded damages of £16,726; Mrs Faulkner £16,103.

And last night, Mrs Giboney, who was fired from her job at the company’s Omagh branch by voicemail, said the dismissals were ironic.

“We were committed to providing a service to victims in our areas – and just look what happened to us,” the mother-of-three said.

“I spent five years servicing the needs of victims of crime, and then I got a message on my voice mail to say that I was sacked – for attending an appointment with the doctor.”

She added: “It’s time the public knew what this organisation, which is trying to help victims, is doing to its employees.”

Mrs Giboney, from Beragh, lost her job on May 16, 2006 – despite having previously told her boss why she couldn’t attend a meeting scheduled for that day.

“I was at the hospital when I heard the message,” she said.

“I couldn’t believe it. Before the shock set in I laughed. I didn’t think a company could do that.

“But then I realised it was real. I went into work and I noticed my colleagues were distressed. The next thing I knew a temporary member of staff came to the door and handed me a letter in front of everyone.

“When I got home that night I listened to the message again a few times. I still couldn’t believe it. Then the next morning I got a recorded delivery, sacking me again.

“By that stage, I had received a voicemail, a hand-delivered letter and another letter by post, so then I really knew that I was definitely sacked. When you think about it, I was fired three times inside two days.”

After an unsuccessful appeal, Mrs Giboney agreed to take a joint case with Mrs Faulkner – who had been sacked the previous month – against Victim Support to the industrial tribunal towards the latter part of 2007.

“The company rejected my appeal and actually said I had lied about the hospital appointment that day and that I had forged a letter,” said Mrs Giboney.

“That’s what hurt me the most. They accused me of lying. That’s when I really felt victimised.”

Mrs Giboney, now a voluntary worker, said that the money “certainly doesn’t compensate me for what I went through”.

“It doesn’t compensate me for the loss of a job and loss of status,” she added.

“That to me is money that could’ve been spent on victims of crime. It’s an abuse of public money.”

Mrs Faulkner, a former manager at the Lisburn branch, was sacked by Victim Support on the eve of her 50th birthday.

The Belfast woman had refused to attend a meeting on April 28, 2006, due to an unresolved grievance that had been previously lodged against the chief executive in 2005.

“I had the most miserable 50th birthday I could have had,” she said.

“I didn’t go to the meeting and I was accused of illegal strike action. A letter was sent by courier to my place of work, dismissing me. I was absolutely devastated.

“I didn’t think something like that could happen in this day and age. It was so absurd I really thought I would be reinstated within the next few days.”

Mrs Faulkner, who has three children, said the tribunal’s decision to award her £16,103 in damages only compensated her for loss of earnings – not the turmoil that she went through.

“It doesn’t make up for the stress or the blight on my CV,” she said.

An Industrial Tribunals spokesperson last night said: “I can confirm the decision was issued on February 12, 2008.”

A spokesperson for Victim Support last night the charity said they were ” disappointed with the outcome”.

“It is always unfortunate when these situations arise,” she said.

“Our focus remains upon continuing to improve the service we provide for victims of crime and witnesses.”