Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Well, the appeal was yesterday afternoon. Ironically the location was at the branch down in Leith (the harbour area of Edinburgh), which I was instrumental in helping to set up back in the autumn of 2003. Last time I was there I had any number of bods from our head office coming up to view it and shaking my hand while congratulating me and my little team for the very good work we had done. Odd way to return.

We kept things short. We contested the notion of 'public domain' since there is no way an obscure blog can be compared to the likes of writing in a mainstream publication or mass media outlet - it is (or was) hard to find unless you knew what you were looking for and the supposedly offensive articles spread throughout large amounts of other material even more difficult to locate (assuming you knew to look for them to begin with).

We also pointed out that no customers had ever complained after reading it and that indeed I knew friends who read the blog and still shopped at Waterstone's and writers who would attend events and buy books there, so the idea that I was somehow destroying the company's image was ridiculous - they read it and still shopped there.

The new item was the recent news I received from my previous manager who left over a year ago. He kindly contacted me after reading about it all to say he was surprised that the blog should suddenly become such a bone of contention as he and the then Area Manager both were aware of it way back then (2003). So why was it okay then but suddenly a firing offence in December a year later?

And again if the company was taking such exception to it, why not take me aside and talk to me about it?
Understandably this meant that the folk conducting the appeal were unable to give us a decision since they will obviously need to look into this and discuss it, so at the moment the union and I are waiting to see what develops. It would be nice to think that the company will be reasonable since no-one wants to go down the route of an industrial tribunal, but we'll just have to wait and see.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read about your case on the Guardian website. Absolutely incomprehensible that Waterstones think this is a sackable offence; sillier still that like you said no-one took you aside and had a quiet word, if they felt it was a problem.

Hmm, what's more damaging to the reputation of Waterstones? Your occasional work-related comments or their (over) reaction to them?

Best of luck with it all anyways, I hope it all reaches the right conclusion!

10:30 PM  
Blogger gemmak said...

Good luck...I await the outcome with much interest. It would be nice to think that Waterstones would take the reasonable and common sense route but let's not hold our breath eh? This is after all corporate stupidity at it's best from the outset.

10:34 PM  
Blogger She Weevil said...


I hope that whatever you want the outcome to be will come to pass. It's difficult to go back to situations but I hope, if that's what you want, that that is what happens.

10:41 PM  
Blogger 1031 said...

I think we're all anxious to hear the outcome of this, though, of course, none more than you, Joe. I hope it all turns out well and that when all is said and done, the company issues a very public apology to you for their insane overreaction.

4:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck Joe.

I'm slightly surprised at your case as summarised, since I'd have thought this was mainly about employment rights rather than free speech.

You might reasonably expect not to be dismissed for criticism of your employers where

a) you apologised and offered to retract

b) the criticism was gentle and clearly 'letting off steam' rather than a systematic defamation

c) they knew about it years ago and didn't act

d) no evidence that it brought them as an employer or trader into disrepute.

On the other hand, it doesn't matter qualitatively if your blog had a real audience of 20- the nature of the medium makes it almost unlimited, surely?

Bill McComish

9:33 AM  
Blogger pogo said...

Fingers crossed for you, I'm still boycotting WS and HMV for what that's worth :-)

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just can't believe that they'll continue being such idiots. All Waterstones have done for themselves is guarantee that they'll be boycotted by lots of people (I've been a Waterstones fan since they opened in Dublin many years ago because they let you *browse* even if you were only 14, and they were unbelievably nice and kind to me when I had a gusher of a nosebleed in the middle of the shop when I was 20) and destroyed much of their reputation.

Very glad to see Banks has come out in favour of you - surely they'll pay at least minimal attention to the most famous living Scottish author?

Good luck, and fingers crossed for you,


10:02 PM  
Blogger Pandora said...

Hey Joe - I picked up on your story in People Management magazine. Sadly they follow the little news article about you with a feature on how companies can legally fire people for blogging later in the magazine. The lengths companies go to to dehumanise their employees distresses me.

On the plus side, without all of this I might never have found your wonderful blog! Keep it up, you're a fabulous read.

(Links to people management articles and more ranting at

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FWIW, Joe, your situation has inspired a good many of us at non-union branches to consider joining a union.

I know it's not much of a consolation, but perhaps it is possible that the 15% required to give us real protection may actually sign up.

7:53 PM  

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