WNO oboist unfairly dismissed, says court

Sacked player wins case on appeal

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The Court of Appeal has ruled that Welsh National Opera’s dismissal of its former principal oboist was unfair.

Murray 'Sandy' Johnson was dismissed in 2008 after 34 years with WNO on the grounds that his playing was harming the reputation of its orchestra. Although an employment tribunal declared this fair in 2010, the Court of Appeal has now overturned this ruling.

WNO had argued that Mr Johnson’s playing did not blend with the rest of the orchestra, but Mr Johnson blamed his dismissal on a '16-year vendetta’ with former musical director Carlo Rizzi.

Although WNO claimed to have followed its disciplinary procedure, the court said that it had failed to meet the terms of its arrangement with the Musicians Union (designed to protect musicians from ‘too subjective an assessment’). Lord Justice Kay said, ‘To subject Mr Johnson to the handbook disciplinary procedure, minus the requirements of oral, written and final warnings, was procedurally unfair.’

WNO now faces with a large bill to meet Johnson's legal costs.

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