Trump ramps up administration’s firings with departure of Rex Tillerson, State Department comms man and own personal assistant – all on same day

After putting in so much practice saying, “You’re fired” on reality-TV show The Apprentice, Donald Trump has yet again demonstrated how effectively he honed that reflex. On 13 March, the polarising US President sacked former ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson from the post of Secretary of State, and moved CIA boss Mike Pompeo over to replace him. In short order, Trump proceeded to fire State Department press official Steve Goldstein for publicly contradicting the Presidential account of how Tillerson’s exit was handled. Next up for the chop was Trump’s own personal assistant John McEntee, who was shunted out of a White House role, but parked in the vanguard of the President’s 2020 re-election strategy team.

The triple-whammy of sackings gave commentators ample scope to recite the roll call of White House chieftains who have exited Trump’s administration in the short time since it has been active, such as spokesman Sean Spicer, strategist Steve Bannon, economic adviser Gary Cohn, comms director Hope Hicks, previous comms director Anthony Scaramucci and chief of staff Reince Priebus – to name but a few – hinting at a climate of extreme White House discontinuity. CNN even went so far as to earmark the nine individuals whose necks are most likely to be on the chopping block next.


IoD names Judge replacement as resignation controversy rumbles on

Business lobbying group the Institute of Directors (IoD) has named former easyJet finance chief Chris Walton as its new chair, following the 9 March departure of lawyer Barbara Judge. Amid what has proven to be a reputational scandal entirely at odds with the IoD’s messaging, Judge resigned following accusations of racism and bullying against her fellow officials. Interestingly, though, IoD deputy chair Sir Ken Olisa – London’s first, black Lord Lieutenant – stepped down soon afterwards, blasting the loss of Judge as the product of a “fatally flawed … personal vendetta”. According to the Evening Standard, Judge now plans to take legal action against the IoD. The whole sequence of events has left commentators by turns alarmed and flummoxed, with some wringing the scenario for its satirical potential. For example, Martin Vander Weyer at The Spectator mused that “what’s left of the IoD’s Council must be wishing it knew of a nearby institute that could offer urgent advice on governance and mental health for organisations in meltdown”.


Netflix chief pours cold water on ‘inclusion riders’ in talent contracts

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has declined to support so-called ‘inclusion riders’ in actors’ contracts as a means of guaranteeing on-set diversity within the streaming platform’s TV and film productions. The concept of the ‘inclusion rider’ surged to prominence in the wake of the recent Academy Awards ceremony: upon claiming her Best Actress Oscar, Frances McDormand used the phrase to urge her fellow female talent to stipulate in their contracts that the production houses they work with must recruit diverse crews. However, in a press conference at his firm’s Hollywood HQ, Hastings said, “We’re not so big on doing everything through agreements – we’re trying to do things creatively.” By which he meant that Netflix intends to approach diversity through open conversations with creative teams, rather than by mandating hiring policies in artists’ deals. USA Today notes that, in Hastings’ own camp, African Americans make up just 4% of Netflix staff and management, with Latinos forming 6% of staff and 5% of management.


Tribunal blasts council over handling of ‘management style’ disciplinary case

Former Scottish Borders regulatory services manager Anthony Carson has been awarded damages of more than £55,000, following a mishandled disciplinary case. Carson had spent most of 2016 on paid leave from the local authority in the wake of allegations from fellow staff members about his management style. In December of that year, though, he was sacked. Carson subsequently took Scottish Borders to an employment tribunal. Finding in his favour, the tribunal judge cited a “complete failure” to provide Carson with “any procedural fairness”, adding: “In my view, the way the respondents dealt with this matter entirely failed to comply with the tenets of natural justice.” Unison official Janet Stewart said: “Scottish Borders Council conduct disciplinary procedures in a superficial manner. This must change. They do not give their employees the respect of a proper, robust process.”


Hammond unveils £80m fund to back small business apprenticeships

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement brought the vocational side of talent development back into the spotlight, with an announcement of financial support for small firms that take on apprentices. Hammond said: “We’re committed as a government to delivering 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020 with the support of business through the apprenticeship levy. But we recognise the challenges the new system presents to some small businesses looking to employ an apprentice. So I can announce today that [education secretary Damian Hinds] will release up to £80m of funding to support those small businesses in engaging an apprentice.” Commentators have viewed the package as an attempt to swing the UK around from a university-driven approach to skills development.

Image of Rex Tillerson courtesy of Alexandros Michailidis, via Shutterstock