A former Greenwich Time reporter was grilled in court today over whether a Finnish student who wrote an article for the council-owned paper was a "substitute" or "on work experience".
Peter Cordwell, 66, who worked on the paper for 12 years, was fired by Greenwich Council after sending a supportive letter to News Shopper about the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign’s success.
His colleague Rod Kitson, 32, was dismissed weeks later, in August last year, and both men filed a claim for unfair dismissal against Greenwich Council.
On Tuesday (April 8), Judge Ian MacInnes presided over the second part of a preliminary hearing at the London Tribunal Service in Croydon, to judge whether the pair were council employees or self-employed.
Much of the discussion centred on aspiring journalists, including a Finnish student, who had written articles for the paper.
It was claimed by the council this could be seen as "substitution" – where a person’s job responsibilities are taken on by someone else - meaning Mr Cordwell and Mr Kitson were self-employed but not directly employed by the council itself.
Greenwich Council head of communications Stuart Godfrey told Mr Cordwell: "We had a number of people of other people who wrote articles for the paper.
"There was that Finish student, whose family paid you, and there may been other examples of Mr Cordwell being paid, because you did not declare to me you were being paid by the student’s family.
"These people had bylines in the paper."
Peter Cordwell said: "They were all on work experience. None of them got paid.
"I was friends with the father of the Finnish student and met with him every week and we went on trips.
"Anyone who knows about work experience, knows it means more work because you have to talk through it with them and then re-write a lot of it at the end."
Mr Cordwell, who had worked at Greenwich Time for 12 years, rejected the idea he was presenting another’s copy as his own.
The 62-year-old said: "I wouldn’t say I was passing their work off as mine at all. It was helping a young lad out.
"If someone could have substituted for me, why wasn’t that ever mentioned as a possibility for holiday cover, given we were such a small team?"
Barrister Jonathan Cohen, representing Greenwich Council, told Mr Cordwell: "You were passing off someone else’s work as your own.
"We have at least four people who you say came in to do work experience.
"Not quite the size of a small football team but almost. You presented it as part of your work."
Judge MacInnes said: "It’s not passing off someone else’s work as his own if it has their byline on it?
"Looking at Mr Cordwell’s job description as editor, part of that job is to get someone else to do work."
The first preliminary hearing was heard on March 12 at the same court.
The judge has reserved ruling on a date to be announced.