A hall keeper at Elgin Town Hall has submitted a claim for more than £7,000 after telling a tribunal a surge of bookings at the venue and a staff shortage left him rushed off his feet.
Douglas Duncan, who has worked at the hall since 2017, was initially employed by Moray Council to work as a hall keeper.
However, he argues a combination of the senior hall keeper departing in about June 2019 and an uptake of shows at the building after it was taken over by Elgin Town Hall for the Community, who saved it from closure, left him with no other choice but to step into the more senior position to keep the doors open – leading him to working up to 70 hours a week.
Yesterday, Mr Duncan told an employment tribunal he repeatedly tried to hold talks with Moray Council and the new management, who took over his employment, initially on a secondment basis, in August 2018, to negotiate an acting-up pay agreement without success.
Transfer from Moray Council ‘muddied waters’
Marian Ogg, Mr Duncan’s representative at the tribunal, explained the transfer from council employment to the community group under Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) – Tupe – regulations had “muddied the waters” of the situation.
Meanwhile, Mike Devenney, chairman of Elgin Town Hall for the Community, explained the local authority appeared to be “not interested” in resolving Mr Duncan’s concerns.
Mr Duncan said: “From August 2019 I contacted my line manager at Moray Council to request details of an acting-up allowance, which is council policy.
“I received very little response from HR. I contacted the head of the department to no avail.
“It seemed to me they wanted rid of me, and the position from Elgin Town Hall for the Community was I should be thankful to still have a job.”
Mr Duncan outlined extra responsibilities he was required to take on at the hall, including ordering supplies, liaising with contractors, ensuring appropriate staff were available for events and supervising volunteers.
He added: “I had never been so busy in my life. My partner asked me to stop because I was exhausted.”
However, he accepted he had not performed all the duties of the senior hall keeper position, explaining he would accept 75% of the £7,293 claimed for.
Surge of bookings at Elgin Town Hall
Elgin Town Hall for the Community took over the running of the venue in August 2018 after it was threatened with closure as part of council budget cuts.
Since then, it has become busier with more evening concerts, gigs and shows to make the running of it self-sufficient.
Mr Devenney explained a one-off £500 payment was offered in November 2019 as a “thank you” to Mr Duncan for his hard work, which was rejected.
However, he argued the substantive acting-up dispute should have been resolved by Moray Council as part of secondment arrangements – but said those talks appeared to “grind to a halt”.
Mr Devenney said: “It should have been dealt with. We have done something, nothing huge or fantastic, and then it entered a hiatus.
“The council appeared not to be interested at all in what happened after the point on December 1 (when Mr Duncan became a permanent Elgin Town Hall for the Community employee).”
Elgin Town Hall director David Adams, who represented the group at the hearing, argued Mr Duncan’s claim should be thrown out due to council policies being irrelevant to his current employment.
However, he added that if a pay award was awarded then it should be restricted to 50% of his total claim.
Mr Adams said: “I would ask a distinction is drawn between general busy-ness and actually taking on the job of another person.”
Employment judge Ronald Mackay said he would issue a written judgement in due course.