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M&S accused of obtaining whistleblower's mobile phone records

Ian Grant

Update... Marks & Spencer had access to the private mobile phone records of the whistleblower it sacked last week, union officials alleged yesterday.

The UK food and clothing retailer sacked Tony Goode (pictured), M&S's customer relationship database manager, for leaking internal company documents on M&S plans to cut staff redundancy payments, and for making "derogatory and speculative comments to the media".

Goode told a press conference yesterday: "The information I passed on was not marked confidential. I know about the Data Protection Act - that's part of my role. And I would never have sent out anything that was confidential or related to financial matters."

Maria Ludkin, the GMB union lawyer who last week represented Goode at a disciplinary hearing, said M&S officials referred constantly to a heavily annotated notebook during the hearing. From the questions asked by John Wareham, M&S's head of global HR, it was clear he knew when Goode had called reporters, she said.

An M&S spokeman dismissed the allegation as "utter nonsense". She said M&S had no way of monitoring employees' private calls and would not do so.

Ludkin said it took M&S just 48 hours to track down Goode from emails he sent to the media. M&S tracked every keystroke on every terminal in the company and held it for six years, she said. It also made extensive use of CCTV, voice recording and other surveillance technology to monitor staff.

Greenwich-based Goode, 43, is a single parent of a daughter (20) who is just starting university, and a son (14), who is stating his GCSEs. He joined M&S's statistics department at 18 after completing his A levels, and has risen steadily over the past 25 years.

Goode's payout would be have been cut in the event of being laid off under M&S proposals. After learning of the plans Goode wrote to Business Involvement Group (BIG), an internal staff council of some 3,500 staff representatives, which was responsible for co-ordinating feedback on the redundancy proposals, expressing his dissaproval.

Goode said M&S had three routes for complaints: via line managers, via a grievance procedure through the human resource department, and via e-mail directly to M&S CEO Stuart Rose. He said none of these routes appealed to him because of a climate of distrust in the organisation.

The M&S spokesman said BIG had used Goode's comments in its final report, which had led M&S to soften its proposal, raising the proposed payout cap from 52 to 62 weeks' pay. "Goode had been listened to," she said. "The whole episode is unfortunate." The M&S spokesman said that as far as she was aware M&S did not log keystrokes.

M&S countdown to whistleblowing

30 July

10.30am

Goode emails Malcolm Heaven, chairman of M&S Business Involvement Group (BIG), an internal staff council of some 3,500 staff representatives, to note his disapproval of the redundancy proposals. He expressed the hope that the proposals, along with the results of an internal M&D survey, would not get leaked to the press.

4.45pm

Goode emails The Times asking, "If I supply a story on M&S will I receive anonymity?"

4.48pm

Dearbail Jordan, The Times' deputy online news editor, replies, assuring anonymity and suggesting that Goode not use his work email.

5.02pm

Goode asks Jordan for a fax number.

5.45pm

Goode emails a draft article from his work email to his home email. The article allegedly airs "a number of grievances re M&S's treatment of its staff spanning - revised redundancy policy, minimal performance-related bonuses and annual pay increases, poor staff survey results, revised pension policy, revised catering arrangements plus general comments re the mood amongst M&S staff".

6.01pm

Goode emails The Times' contact details to his home email address.

1 August

Goode goes on annual leave.

4 August

The Times' retail correspondent, Steve Hawkes, emails Goode, assuring him of anonymity and asking whether anyone else had been in touch with him.

18 August

Good returns from leave.

12.10pm

Goode sends his draft plus the M&S redundancy proposal to Hawkes.

12.42pm

Hawkes replies, asking for more information.

12.44pm

Goode emails his mobile number to Hawkes and asks him to call him back.

3.35pm

Goode emails Hawkes saying he is "struggling to get the survey figures as they have been removed from our company intranet site. The highest figure related to bullying and discrimination being tolerated in the workplace was 41% and covered our marketing and customer insight area".


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