Dismissal of climate man upheld

By Yvonne Tahana

Jim Salinger. Photo / Richard Robinson
Jim Salinger. Photo / Richard Robinson

A Crown research institute was justified in firing top climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger, the Employment Relations Authority has found.

Dr Salinger had a high public profile with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research before he was dismissed in April for serious misconduct involving breaches of a media policy. The policy specifies that scientists must gain approval from managers before engaging with the media.

Breaches included unauthorised interviews over three months with Radio New Zealand and TVNZ as well as calling TV One weatherman Jim Hickey with a tip about Greymouth rivers being in flood.

Dr Salinger was seeking compensation for lost income up to 2012, with $104,000 in lost superannuation and $50,000 for humiliation and loss of dignity.

However, in his determination, authority member Leon Robinson said the dismissal was warranted because Dr Salinger had been given clear instructions at numerous meetings that others were to be used as spokespeople and he was to step back from that role.

There were also concerns that Dr Salinger's Niwa-related work was suffering because of his honorary position as president of a World Meteorological Organisation commission, an appointment that entailed international travel and led to extended absences.

However, the dispute boiled down to Dr Salinger's continued contact with news organisations.

"The authority also accepts the instruction given to Dr Salinger, and repeated, was legitimate, lawful and reasonable. It is an employer's right to determine how its interaction with the media is handled."

Mr Robinson said Dr Salinger's service over 27 years had been "largely distinguished", however there was no merit in the claim.

Last night, Dr Salinger said he was disappointed.

- NZ Herald

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