“I have been made a scapegoat in a political battle”, says Christine Ourmières-Widener
TAP CEO Christine Ourmières-Widender had her moment in the spotlight on Tuesday, to state that she has been made a “scapegoat” in the Alexandra Reis/ golden handshake furore.
She accused the government of making an “illegal and televised” sacking, with “no respect for a senior executive”.
“I was dismissed on March 6 and after one month I am still in function without any guidelines in a period of time for the company that is much critical in the preparation of the summer that will be critical for the financial result of the organisation”, she told the parliamentary committee. “I consider that this process that was started on TV, not only was/ is illegal in the way that I was dismissed, but was really not appropriate and lacking all respect for a senior executive”.
As reports explain, the controversial departure of Alexandra Reis from TAP, as well as the half million euro compensation paid to her, led to a reshuffle in the Government, endless column inches of controversy in the media and the creation of the parliamentary commission of enquiry into the political supervision of TAP’s management.
Accompanied by her lawyers on Tuesday, Ms Ourmières-Widener said there was “nothing personal” in her decision to let Ms Reis ‘go’, but that Ms Reis did not, in the end, have the profile for her position.
Ms Reis “was a good professional, we had constructive discussions, but we needed to make decisions, we could not get behind and I proposed a change in the organisation after six months to improve the company’s performance”.
The still acting CEO also said the whole process of agreeing Ms Reis’ sizeable golden handshake had been in the hands of “well known lawyers in labour law”, thus she could not understand why it was subsequently declared ‘illegal’, nor why this was being used as ‘just cause’ for her dismissal.
As reports suggested Ms Ourmières-Widener was very much “on the defensive throughout” her questioning by MPs. That questioning went on well into the evening as MPs tried to understand the chain of command in this State-owned company where half million euros severance payments were agreed via Whatsapp, and where people were fired on live television.
Today will see the questioning by the committee of Alexandra Reis – the woman whose career dive-bombed after a short stint at NAV (the State air traffic service provider) before she was (all to briefly) appointed as Secretary of State for the Treasury by finance minister Fernando Medina who has repeatedly said he knew nothing of her ‘illegal’ golden handshake.
As Correio da Manhã leader writer Eduardo Dâmaso commented in today’s newspaper, Christine Ourmières Widener may believe she has been used as a scapegoat, but really it is the taxpayers of Portugal who in bailing out TAP to the tune of €3.2 billion have been used as “immense scapegoats” for the Socialist executive’s “political thoughtlessness and incompetence”.