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Cancer-stricken photographer considers action after being axed by daily

Geoff AbottA photographer currently battling cancer is considering legal action after being made redundant by a regional daily.

Geoff Abbott, who worked for North Wales daily The Leader for four years, says he may pursue a claim of unfair dismissal against owner Newsquest on the grounds of either disability or age discrimination.

Geoff, picture below, was diagnosed with blood cancer around a year ago and says he was the only remaining staff photographer working on The Leader at the time of his recent departure.

The 59-year-old is currently in hospital undergoing chemotherapy and is set to undergo a stem cell transplant in Manchester later this year after a donor was found in Switzerland.

Speaking to HTFP from his hospital bed, Geoff told HTFP: “I’m considering [a claim of] unfair dismissal under ageism or disability discrimination.”

Geoff has worked on and off as a journalist and photographer since the 1990s, having previously served in the Royal Air Force.

Other titles he has worked for include the North Wales Weekly News and North Wales Chronicle, while in his most recent role he also covered the Rhyl Journal and Denbighshire Free Press.

Geoff did not attend consultation meetings due to his illness, but was advised by the National Union of Journalists throughout the process.

Of Newsquest’s decision to make him redundant, he said: “They’re devaluing their products for customers by getting rid of photographers. They should have left a scratch crew.”

He added: “I could cover the daily and two weeklies at the same time with support from reporters using their mobile phones, but they would need the right training to maintain the quality of the product for the readers and advertisers.”

A Newsquest spokesman said: “Following a review of the North Wales business, the company has decided to reduce the number of photographers we have. This has unfortunately led to the redundancy of Geoff Abbott following the conclusion of a consultation process.

“We would like to thank Geoff for his contribution to the business and wish him well with his ongoing recovery from ill health.”

11 comments

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  • August 5, 2019 at 11:16 am
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    Good luck Geoff in standing up to Newsquest on this. I wonder how on earth that company seriously expects the Leader to thrive without staff photographers, sub-editors and feature writers, all of whom play a vital role on any title and who have been shamefully treated by NQ since it took over NWN. Without them a lot of quality will be lost from the publication.

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  • August 5, 2019 at 11:22 am
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    Thank you. I spent most of my working life in the aircraft industry so I was astounded when they started getting rid of the most experienced (and costly) journalists who I loved working with. I was surrounded by talent of the highest calibre and even the rookies were brilliant but there’s hardly anyone left to pass on the crucial ingredients that come with years of experience.

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  • August 5, 2019 at 1:04 pm
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    Firstly, best wishes for your treatment and recovery Geoff.
    Even by Newsquest’s standard of callous and uncaring treatment of loyal and hardworking staff, this is a new low for them.
    To Geoff’s colleagues at NWN, I sincerely hope you are going to stand by him. That means no pictures taken by reporters!
    Of course, I’m sure the NUJ will be advising this too, won’t they?

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  • August 5, 2019 at 5:20 pm
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    Completely agree with Nikkon! Geoff’s reporter colleagues should refuse en masse to take pictures! It’s the least they can do! I remember the days when we would have striked over this and rightly so.

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  • August 5, 2019 at 6:01 pm
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    Thanks for your correction Bob. Is that your only contribution to the debate?

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  • August 6, 2019 at 11:21 am
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    Apologies for the delay, Disgruntled Toggy. I didn’t ‘contribute to the debate’ because I agree with all the other contributors, including you. Also, in common with other old hacks, I’m (sadly) becoming inured to the continuing destruction of our once-proud industry.

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  • August 6, 2019 at 12:40 pm
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    Me too Bob and I’ve just “liked” your comment…

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  • August 6, 2019 at 1:59 pm
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    I don’t think that young reporters, who are unlikely to be union members (for all the good that does them), will be brave enough to refuse to take pictures. But what if all the pictures they did take were out of focus, were shot through dirty lenses, cut off peoples heads or had the edge of thumbs over the lens? Good luck with your fight Geoff!

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  • August 6, 2019 at 2:38 pm
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    As I’ve said on here before… Better to be in the union than not! If all Geoff’s colleagues were in the union and refused to take pictures then not only would they be helping Geoff they would be easing their workload! From one photographer to another, good luck Geoff.

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  • August 7, 2019 at 1:24 pm
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    Most of my working life was spent in the aircraft industry which is quality obsessed and has a high standard of training and discipline. Sadly in comparison the news industry seems to fall apart at the seems after initial training. I found almost all staff members weak in the face of managers who demanded more than the contracted hours. This puts many workers under the minimum wage and, even on this most basic principle of fair play, I found the NUJ making the wrong noises so turned to the Inland Revenue to handle my case. Even so I would still encourage everyone to join the NUJ and fight for working rights. Thanks for all the comments and support. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully it’s not the Irish Mail.

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