Fredric leaves Critic happy

Fredric leaves Critic happy

Callum Fredric has stepped down as editor of Critic after reaching a settlement with OUSA last Friday. Fredric was suspended after a meeting with Darel Hall, the General Manager of OUSA and its subsidiary company Planet Media Dunedin Ltd (PMDL), on Friday 3 May. This suspension was confirmed in a further meeting with Hall on Tuesday 7 May. PMDL is responsible for the University’s student media, including Critic and Radio One.

The terms of the settlement remain confidential. Hall refused to confirm any details to Critic, commenting only that “there was a mutually satisfactory agreement.” However, Wellington magazine Salient has cited “sources close to [OUSA]” who put Fredric’s settlement at around $35,000, slightly less than his basic salary.

The suspension became public knowledge on Monday 6 May, after Fredric was asked by police to leave the Critic office. The incident led to Fredric being trespassed from all OUSA buildings by the Proctor, Simon Thompson.

Blogger David Farrar was quick to comment last Tuesday afternoon, posting on Kiwiblog that the size of the settlement indicated that OUSA “didn’t have a leg to stand on,” and that it was “a pity Otago students are the ones who have to fund the employment mishaps of OUSA.” Critic understands that the settlement and OUSA’s legal fees will be covered by insurance, although the price of the excess is unknown. OUSA will presumably also lose its no-claims bonus. Farrar has been covering the dispute between Fredric and PMDL since Tuesday 7 May, soon after social media and the Otago Daily Times had broken the story. Fredric knows Farrar personally and in the past has worked for Farrar’s polling company, Curia. Fredric has denied having leaked the story to Farrar.

Fredric considered the suspension “unlawful,” a position he still maintains. He alleges a lack of due process on PMDL’s side.

OUSA’s employment policy, which also applies to PMDL, recommends an informal approach to disciplinary matters. However, as a company rather than an association, PMDL is bound by slightly different employment laws and does not share OUSA’s Collective Employment Agreement (CEA). The CEA explicitly allows for suspension pending investigation (article 33.2g), whereas similar suspensions for PMDL staff must rely on employment legislation.

This is not the first time that PMDL has settled with an employee. In 2011, Planet Media sales representative Dave Eley left with a settlement believed to be $12,000. Unlike Fredric, Eley left PMDL as a result of restructuring and was paid a contractually set redundancy package. However, sources within PMDL believe that Eley’s case was mismanaged and that PMDL could have lessened its liability.

“What we’ve been trying to do for a while now is align PMDL and OUSA policies, because what we want is one team,” Hall explained. Hall’s carefully-worded and unspecific answers to Critic made it clear, however, that juggling the OUSA employment policy, the terms of PMDL staff Individual Employment Agreements (IEAs), the demands of employment law, and the two hats Hall must wear as General Manager of both OUSA (a charitable organisation) and PMDL (a company), creates a morass of competing considerations. This leaves PMDL vulnerable in cases like Fredric’s, which may explain why OUSA was willing to settle.

Critic contacted Fredric for comment. In response, Fredric compared Critic’s reporter to “North Korea” and launched into an extended metaphor about war. He later stated that, “This is like Brutus asking Julius Caesar for comment on his recent assassination.” Clearly a fan of metaphors, Fredric in a radio interview with Salient on Tuesday 7 May compared himself to “Han Solo frozen in carbonite.” Fredric spoke to the ODT for an article published last Wednesday, threatening to sue OUSA again, this time over the alleged leak of documents relating to his dispute.

Critic is now looking for a new editor, and an updated job description has been written. Applications close Wednesday 29 May at 9am - see page 31 for details.

$35,000 could pay for...

The OUSA Service Levy of 222 students

($157.82 per student)

The refilling of 1,910 Emerson’s flagons

($18.32 per flagon)

The annual rent of ~7 students

(Approximately $100 per week)

Critic tries to inform; Fredric threatens to sue

Callum Fredric has stepped down as Editor of Critic after reaching a settlement with OUSA. After an eleventh-hour letter from Fredric’s lawyers, Critic has decided to not to print the reasons behind Fredric’s suspension.

Letter from Callum's Lawyers
This article first appeared in Issue 13, 2013.
Posted 3:03pm Sunday 26th May 2013 by Staff Reporter.