By Cara Sulieman
FORMER Hearts boss Csaba Laszlo revealed it wasn’t just a striker he was missing during his time with the club – but a secretary too.
He appeared as a witness today at an Employment Tribunal in Edinburgh where his former employers are accused of sex discrimination.
Football secretary Louise Mackenzie alleges she lost out on work at the club after returning from maternity leave part time before someone else was hired to cover shifts she also expected to do.
It was when a second football secretary was taken on in July 2009 that home match day hours – which Louise Mackenzie says she was contractually entitled to – were taken away from her.
“Spoke many times”
The former Hearts boss – who today described himself as “unemployed” following his sacking by the club in January – lifted the lid on the reasons behind the changes.
Laszlo, 45, the longest reigning manager under current Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov, said when he first arrived he decided he needed full time secretarial cover seven days a week.
The ex-manager explained how he had discussed getting in another member of staff with Anatoliy Karobochka, the Director of Football.
Mr Laszlo said: “I spoke with Anatoliy Karobochka in this time about the two secretaries but I didn’t speak to him about names.
“We didn’t have a secretary and we needed someone full time to be always there. About this we spoke many times.
“I asked for somebody to cover all the days at the Academy.”
The HR department responded to Mr Laszlo’s request by bringing in Louise Clark as a second football secretary.
Mrs Mackenzie had been working part time three days a week since returning from maternity leave a year before.
She had already brought up the issue of match days the year before when returning from her maternity leave.
Concerned about the employment contract offered to her, she met with David Southern, Marketing and Communication Director at the club, to address a number of issues.
Mr Southern told the tribunal – led by Employment Judge Susan Craig – that he thought he had made it clear to Mrs Mackenzie that she wasn’t entitled to the hours and that she had accepted this.
He said: “She intimated that she wanted to work match days and, as I understood, all match days.
“My understanding was that from the club perspective, match day working wasn’t an entitlement but it was requested when necessary by the club.
“I believe I made it clear that the club would welcome her working on match days as necessary but there wasn’t an entitlement to do so.
“It was a very amicable meeting for its duration. I saw the meeting as very positive, she was very open and I was very open as well and I saw it on conclusion as a successful meeting.”
But the matter was brought up again in June 2009, when Mrs Mackenzie was told a new member of staff would be brought in by Mary McKissack, head of human resources.
Louise Clark was employed to work Wednesday, Thursday and weekend mornings and match days as part of her contracted hours.
When this was relayed to Mrs Mackenzie, she complained to her manager about the way she was being treated, believing it was unfair that she hadn’t been consulted on the changes.
Mary McKissack told the tribunal: “The decision to recruit was partly down to Louise Mackenzie now working just three days a week and the new manager coming in at that particular time.
“He wanted there to be someone available seven days a week.
“I rang Louise Clark and spoke to her about this position and she seemed quite interested, but felt that two days wasn’t really worth her while.
“The weekends and match days were added so that it made up the hours and to try and make a reasonable job.
“I knew that Louise Mackenzie had been saying it was difficult to work three days when other work is piling up and thought she would welcome it.
“I didn’t think there was any need for any consultation, it didn’t affect any terms and conditions of her employment or the job description.”
Stewart Fraser, Finance Director and Company Secretary, dealt with Mrs Mackenzie’s appeal.
He said: “She believed that she had a contractual right to work on match days. I didn’t agree with her.
“She said that by custom and practice she had a contractual right to work all match days and be consulted about any changes to this.”
Mrs Mackenzie is suing the club for sexual discrimination – she claims that she was unfairly treated by having the home match day hours taken away from her when it was her entitlement to work them.
She works for the side mainly from its offices at their Riccarton training HQ on the outskirts of Edinburgh in the grounds of Heriot-Watt University.
The centre of excellence is the hub of all the SPL club’s off field footballing activity including training, housing team management offices, treatment areas and indoor playing areas.
Her role involves ensuring that all members of the football department – including manager, coaching staff, players and support staff – all know where they are supposed to be at any given time.
The tribunal will continue on Friday.