Former US staff face gag order

By Simon Rocker, February 5, 2009

The United Synagogue has been challenged over the use of confidentiality agreements signed by staff who have lost their jobs.

Members of the organisation’s lay council were told at a meeting at the end of last week that nine redundancies had been made among a staff of around 100 in a cost-cutting budget.

But David Rose, council representative for South Hampstead Synagogue, quizzed US officers over confidentiality agreements that he said he had heard some departing staff had been asked to sign.

Such agreements may be standard following a dispute or in areas of the private sector, he observed. But he went on: “We are a communal organisation and I find it worrying that some of the matters concerned with staff leaving the United Synagogue which may go beyond matters of private confidentiality have been kept away from the council”.

He sought assurances that such agreements involved only personal arrangements with the US “and not to anything the staff might know about changes in activities”.

But Russell Tenzer, the co-treasurer who presented the budget, defended the practice.

“I am a great believer that charities should be run as businesses,” he said. “I see no reason why staff leaving should not be treated fairly, respectfully and properly as they would in any business environment.”

Like staff, employers should have the same rights, he said. “We do this absolutely correctly.”

The staff cuts have come amid a reorganistion by new chief executive Jeremy Jacobs designed to deliver services better to local communities.

Around 70 staff were briefed on the changes on a day trip to Cambridge last week, while this week senior management and other key US figures went on a two-day “away-day” in Cheshunt.

Last updated: 4:50pm, February 5 2009