Two reporters who were fired from the British newspaper News of the World have filed unfair dismissal claims against Rupert Murdoch's News International, officials said Wednesday.
News International said Wednesday it "will vigorously contest the case" filed by former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck. A British employment tribunal filing showed that Thurlbeck's claim was filed on Sept. 13.
Thurlbeck is expected to claim he was fired for whistleblowing in the phone-hacking scandal that brought down his tabloid. A preliminary hearing will take place at the East London Tribunal Service center Friday.
The British news agency Press Association reported that another former journalist at the tabloid, Ian Edmondson, has lodged a similar claim for unfair dismissal. A person familiar with the matter confirmed that on condition of anonymity.
Edmondson was arrested along with Thurlbeck in April on suspicion of conspiring to intercept voicemail messages. Both have been released on bail pending further questioning.
Murdoch's News International had long maintained that the eavesdropping was limited to a single rogue reporter, Clive Goodman, and the private investigator he was working with to break into voicemails of members of the royal household. But an email uncovered during legal proceedings seemed to cast doubt on that claim. It contained a transcript of an illegally obtained conversation, drawn up by a junior reporter and marked "for Neville" _ an apparent reference to Thurlbeck.
Murdoch decided to close News of the World in July as allegations piled up that the tabloid systematically intercepted private voice mail of celebrities, politicians and crime victims.
In a separate development, the Labour Party urged Murdoch's son James to step down as the chairman of British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC over the scandal.
Pressure on the younger Murdoch intensified after former lieutenants contradicted his account of how much he knew about the scandal.
Delegates at the Labour Party's annual conference in Liverpool unanimously backed a call for his dismissal Friday. Union boss Len McCluskey, who put forward the motion, said his party "will no longer tolerate the corruption of decent values sadly witnessed in some quarters of our media in recent times."
News International did not immediately return a message seeking a reaction to the motion. BSkyB spokesman Robert Fraser declined comment.