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Top pair sacked by S4C lodge claims with Employment Tribunal

23 May 2024 9 minute read
S4C Chief Executive Sian Doyle. (C) Huw John; S4C headquarters in Carmarthen. Photo via Google

Martin Shipton

Two former senior executives of S4C who were sacked separately for gross misconduct last year have lodged Employment Tribunal claims, we have been told.

Sian Doyle, who was S4C’s chief executive, was dismissed in November 2023 following delivery of a report by Cardiff solicitors Capital Law that described widespread bullying at the Welsh language broadcaster.

S4C commissioned an investigation after receiving a formal letter from the trade union Bectu, which represents media workers.

A version of the inquiry report has now been published, redacted to protect the identity of complainants.

Unsettled

It states: “The overriding theme of the evidence we received was centred around the behaviours and actions of S4C’s Chief Executive Officer, Sian Doyle and (but to a lesser extent) the Chief Content Officer, Llinos Griffin-Williams, and how they went about their work and how it unsettled the organisation.

“Sian Doyle and her behaviour was a prominent theme brought up again and again. We received examples of her behaviour from former employees, third parties and current employees of each of the three S4C offices, from different levels within the organisation and from different departments. Considering the number of participants who commented, and the number of examples given, Sian Doyle’s behaviour was highlighted as having the most significant negative impact on the working environment and atmosphere within S4C.

“Most examples are of Sian Doyle’s alleged bad behaviour (87.9%). Of those, 37 participants’ (26 current employees and 11 former employees) view was that Sian Doyle’s management style was confrontational, abusive and inconsiderate.

“Sian Doyle’s behaviour was said to have had a significant impact on 18 current employees. Many of the examples provided were not proven by documentary evidence, nor evidence from more than one witness, but there was a clear theme. Some of the evidence is of significant specific events whilst other evidence is of minor incidents, repeatedly creating a pattern. We report on both.

“We received 116 examples of Sian Doyle’s behaviour, 101 of which have been categorised as alleged bad behaviour. There are 15 examples categorised as alleged good behaviour.

“The 101 alleged examples of Sian Doyle’s bad behaviour were provided by 29 participants. Of the 29 participants who provided examples of Sian Doyle’s alleged bad behaviour, 18 were current S4C employees, 9 were former S4C employees, and 2 had left the organisation since the start of the process.

“The 15 examples of Sian Doyle’s alleged good behaviour have been provided by 12 participants. Of the 15 examples of Sian Doyle’s alleged good behaviour, 4 are from the participants that also provided examples of Sian Doyle’s alleged bad behaviour.

“Of the 12 participants who had provided examples of Sian Doyle’s alleged good behaviour, 3 were former S4C employees and 9 were current S4C employees. Of the 12 participants who had provided good examples of Sian Doyle’s behaviour, 6 of them were appointed whilst she was CEO.

Bad behaviour

16 pages of the Evidence Report quote examples of bad behaviour whilst two pages quote examples of good behaviour.”

The report states: “Although participants recognised that change is needed within S4C, and that the general strategic direction that Sian Doyle was working towards was a positive one, the participants described how Sian Doyle had failed to bring S4C colleagues with her in implementing and managing this change.

“The several reports from witnesses are summarised in these contributions:

* It was reported that the Chief Executive had made it clear that to deliver change in the workplace, anxiety rather than trust was required and that they understood that the Chief Executive wanted staff to feel insecure at work to achieve this.

* It was said that there was a: ‘..culture of zero critical disclosure and she has created a situation where there is no analysis of the truth, the truth gets presented in a way that Sian sees it and the management team do not challenge her because the culture has gone to such an extent that we do not have the right to challenge and, in my opinion, to do the job we are supposed to do. I would describe the atmosphere as a type of ‘compliance or die’.’

“Many of the participants described situations where they had seen Sian Doyle behave abusively whilst discussing S4C colleagues and their work. This was described in various ways, but participants referred to her targeting specific colleagues in public and her use of swearwords and derogatory language whilst discussing them. This led to an unpleasant feeling and of mistrust among participants.

“There are numerous reports of the Chief Executive being rude or disparaging about colleagues in internal meetings or in public. Examples include:

* Disparaging comments about S4C programmes and their presenters.In one example, in relation to a specific programme, the Chief Executive was reported as saying: “who the fuck are [redacted – presenters]? Who is watching this rubbish?”

* “Sian Doyle just started talking about [a former staff member] who no longer works at S4C. She was just wild and then said:“he has to go. I’m not going to have anyone like that working here”. That is a paraphrase of her words. She was just telling a room full: “that’s it. He has to go. I’m going to get rid of him.”

* In one conversation about a colleague Sian Doyle was reported as saying: ‘She’s fucking gone, she shows me no respect. ‘I’ll get rid of her like that.”

“Participants reported that Sian Doyle’s leadership style was: ‘dictatorial creating a culture of fear’. Many of the participants described the negative impact of this on them and their work, with many being reluctant to challenge the Chief Executive and afraid to state their own ideas or views to her. We were told that this caused many S4C staff to feel generally scared in the workplace.

“There are many reports of people considering that they had to do what the Chief Executive said, whether they agreed or not, with her saying:’Are you with me or not, are you with me or not?’ and: ‘it’s me or the chair, you have to choose who you are loyal to, me or the chairman’?

“As well as many participants considering that Sian Doyle’s leadership was ‘dictatorial’, we heard from many people who considered her to be confrontational.There were a number of examples of this, but providing details and quotations in this section, in particular, might breach the confidentiality of the witnesses. Several reports suggest individuals were berated in meetings with many other staff present but the evidence is very personal

“At least one incident was described where upsetting behaviour and challenging body language resulted in a staff member being in tears and needing to be comforted by others present.

“An example of Sian Doyle’s leadership style was her alleged regular use of the phrase: ‘Shoot one and a thousand tremble’. This was raised by many participants and witnessed first-hand by 3

“This exchange is an example:

Investigator: “Have you heard Sian say [‘shoot one and a thousand tremble]?”

[Redacted]: “Yes, and the entire management team has heard Sian say this several times.”

“We heard that participants felt that Sian Doyle disregarded experience, expertise and past successes. One witness said:

* “I’ve worked under 5 chief executives, a good relationship, a number of chairmen, with an interim chief executive and I have never felt so worthless as I was working for Siân.”

Rugby World Cup

Llinos Griffin-Williams was sacked in October 2023 by the broadcaster’s Chair Rhodri Williams following an incident in France where she was abusive to members of a TV production team providing Rugby World Cup coverage.

Nation.Cymru revealed how Ms Griffin-Williams had been sacked after staff had initially been told that she had simply “left” the broadcaster.

The dismissal occurred following an investigation into her conduct at two locations in Nantes after the match on Saturday October 7 when Wales secured a place in the quarter final of the tournament after beating Georgia.

Ms Griffin-Williams and other S4C staff including chief executive Sian Doyle were at an event in the French city hosted by Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff’s best-known Welsh language music venue.

Ms Griffin-Williams was abusive towards members of the Whisper TV team, including the former Wales international Mike Phillips, one of the pundits. She was personally abusive to Mr Phillips, saying things like if it wasn’t for her no one would know who he was. She also told him that his Welsh wasn’t good enough.

The Whisper team then left the venue to avoid further confrontation, taking a taxi to another location elsewhere in the city where other members of the Welsh media contingent were spending the evening. But Ms Griffin-Williams and Ms Doyle turned up at the second location and Ms Griffin-Williams resumed her abusive comments.

Ms Griffin-Williams was dismissed for gross misconduct. She was drunk, which is contrary to S4C policy when working for S4C. Her behaviour in Nantes was also not considered acceptable from a senior executive of the broadcaster.

Employment law

Under UK employment law, workers can usually only make a claim for unfair dismissal if they have worked at least two years for an organisation. Both Ms Doyle and Ms Griffin-Williams worked for S4C for less than two years.

It is, however, possible to bring a claim for “wrongful dismissal” against an employer however long the employment lasted. Such a claim would have to relate to a breach of the worker’s employment contract.

It is understood that Ms Doyle’s claim is against Mr Williams as well as against S4C. Usually an Employment Tribunal claim is brought only against an employer.

Ms Griffin-Williams’ claim is understood to be solely against S4C.

A spokesperson for S4C said: “It would not be appropriate for us to comment while any legal processes are ongoing.”


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Alun
Alun
11 days ago

It’s never ceases to amaze me how the most unsuitable people get the most powerful and high paid positions.

hdavies15
hdavies15
11 days ago
Reply to  Alun

Ms Vennells ! and loads more like her, mostly males.

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