|A FORMER union secretary
sacked after alleging big-spending habits among her bosses won an
estimated £100,000 in an out-of-court settlement yesterday.
Marcia Solomon, 32, claimed that she had been dismissed from the
Manufacturing, Science and Finance union when she exposed
exaggerated expenses claims made by Roger Lyons, the General
Secretary, and Nelson Mendes, the head of finance. She claimed
unfair dimissal at an employment tribunal.
Although the union denied the allegations, both parties reached a
settlement at the London hearing, in which a sum believed to be
£100,000 was awarded to Ms Solomon. Half of the award will go to the
general union, GMB, where Ms Solomon now works and which backed her
claim. Ms Solomon, of Croydon, Surrey, said: "I regret having had to
take MSF to an employment tribunal as I always considered it to be
an excellent organisation, not least in its campaigns to provide
protection for whistle blowers.
"However, I maintain that I saw what I saw, and acted in good
faith when I brought my concerns to the attention of John Chowcat,
the then assistant general secretary." Mr Chowcat was subsequently
sacked but on lodging an appeal, the union agreed to say that he had
resigned and paid him compensation.
Margaret Wall, the MSF national secretary, said: "Her allegations
were treated seriously despite her inability to substantiate any of
The tribunal was brought to a halt after hearing evidence from Mr
Chowcat. He said that Mr Lyons started disciplinary proceedings
against him when he was asked to investigate the allegations.
Ms Solomon earlier told the hearing that she had noticed
discrepancies in expenses claims when she started working for Mr
Mendes in 1996. She said that she had seen cheques for £35,000 made
out to the men from union funds and that Mr Lyons had claimed money
for hospitality meetings with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
She had maintained that Mr Lyons and Mr Mendes had been making
false claims since 1996. She added: "Every little incident seemed to
add to the impression that Roger was living the high life with union
funds. The last straw came in December 1998 when he was seeking
reimbursement for petrol for a private holiday and a New Year's Day
dinner at a tandoori restaurant in London. I did not see how these
could be union business." She had been infuriated, she said, because
these cases had come to light at a time when a union was "tightening
its belt and members of staff at headquarters were being declared
Both parties will return on Tuesday to finalise the details of
the settlement. A joint statement from MSF and Ms Solomon said: "The
parties have agreed an out-of-court settlement in this case. They
each maintain their respective positions but have agreed that it
does not serve the interests of the members of both trade unions to
Richard O'Brien, a union spokesman, said: "There was no point in
continuing the case and costing our members a lot of money." He said
the union had not appreciated the exact implications of new
industrial relations laws when dealing with "whistle blowing". They
would have had to prove malice despite the fact that Ms Solomon had
not brought forward concrete evidence to back up her allegation.
After her complaint had been lodged, an inquiry had been
launched. Auditors and the union's bankers had found no
irregularities in the books. The accounts had also been passed by
the Certification Officer, the Government's trade union regulator.
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