Video: Marks and Spencer whistleblower remains defiant

Tony Goode, former customer database manager at Marks & Spencer, has few regrets about blowing the whistle on the retailer's plans to cut redundancy payments, even though it cost him his job.

Tony Goode has few regrets about blowing the whistle on Marks & Spencer's plans to cut redundancy payments, which would have weighed heaviest on its longest-serving staff, even though it cost him his job.

Speaking to Computer Weekly in his first in-depth interview since his sacking on 3 September 2008, the former customer database manager said "My intention was never to cause embarrassment to Marks & Spencer.

>> SEE PART TWO OF THE INTERVIEW

"I went to the press because I had raised the issues internally with my line manager and with the works councils, and I did not have any confidence that they would resolve them. I thought that speaking to the press would put the issue in the public domain and hopefully get Marks & Spencer to change its mind."

Goode acknowledged his interest in having the plans changed. When he was sacked he was a few days shy of completing 25 years' unblemished service, and would have missed out on a substantial top-up to his pension under the new arrangements.

However, his call to the reporter on the Times last year was the culmination of what he describes as a long steady erosion of trust between management and staff. A new financial incentive scheme created a "divisive" environment where blame, bullying and overloading junior staff could easily arise, he said.

This was reflected in a staff survey conducted just before he left the retailer. In one group of 30 staff, 41% reported that bullying was tolerated in their department, he said.

Staff also felt they were being watched, Goode said. He knew from personal experience that the human resources department was checking when people entered and left the head office building. There was a sense that staff were being paid for attendance rather than output, he said.

Related articles on Marks and Spencer:

·        Marks & Spencer confirms 1,200 job losses

·        Marks and Spencer bugged staff, says GMB

M&S's workplace surveillance went further, he said. "It is my understanding that all e-mails into or out of the company are stored for six years," he said. "I also know from conversations with information security people that they are testing and trialling software that can inspect the content of e-mails," he said.

"There needs to be some trust. Keeping e-mails for that length of time is certainly something that would not have happened five years ago," he said.

Goode is finding it tough to get another job. Retailers all along the High Street are closing down, M&S itself is shedding 1230 staff, and may shed more. Being outed as a whistleblower does not help. Goode is doing some work for the GMB union, which is supporting his unfair dismissal claim against M&S, but a permanent job in retail seems a dim prospect.

So would he do it again? "John Wareham (M&S's head of global HR) asked me the same question," Goode said. "I said I hoped never to be in the same position again. He took that as a yes, but that is not what I said."

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