Journo Gizbert files suit against Alphabet
LONDON — Richard Gizbert, a London-based reporter who alleges he was fired by ABC News in 2004 for turning down assignments in Afghanistan and Iraq, is suing his ex-employer for unfair dismissal and $4 million in lost earnings.
Trial begins Friday at a U.K. employment tribunal and is expected to run for six days.
Landmark case invokes the U.K.’s employment health and safety rules, which make it illegal for a boss to dismiss an employee for raising a bona fide complaint about his/her safety. It also challenges the news org’s claim that war duty is voluntary.
Gizbert, who has joint British and Canadian nationality, joined ABC in 1993 after being scouted by the late Peter Jennings and went on to cover the bloodshed in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Chechnya.
In 2002 the father of two renegotiated his contract with the Disney-owned web, securing a no war-zone agreement in return for giving up many of the perks foreign correspondents enjoy, including his $200,000-a-year basic salary plus housing and school fee allowances.
His new, rolling one-year contract gave him a flat $1,000 per day for babysitting the London bureau while reporters were roaming the globe.
In June 2004 Gizbert claims ABC London bureau chief Marcus Wilford told him his employment was being terminated as “ABC wants to replace you with a correspondent who will travel to war zones.”
When contacted by Daily Variety, Wilford denied making the statement.
Speaking from New York, ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider described Gizbert as a freelancer whom the net was free to cut at any time.
He reiterated that “assignments to war zones are entirely voluntary. This has been our longstanding policy.”
Former BBC correspondent and independent Member of Parliament Martin Bell and reporter Arthur “Scud Stud” Kent (who sued NBC for breach of contract in 1992) will act as witnesses for Gizbert.
Tribunal has ordered Wilford and New York-based ABC News veepee for newsgathering Mimi Gurbst to attend in person.
“The case is not just about me,” said Gizbert. “Many news organizations are having difficulty finding reporters to cover the (Iraq) war, especially since Westerners have become targets of bombings and abductions.
“It is vital companies like ABC/Disney, which claim war zones are voluntary, are held to account when they renege on their promises.”