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How the ‘shabby’ Unison leadership put workers’ rights in jeopardy

Witch-hunted activist Glenn Kelly explains how the actions of the UNISON leadership could have seriously weakened a worker's right to take on their employers in the courts

July 20, 2012
3 min read

In a humiliating response to Unison’s attempts to bully four witch-hunted Socialist Party members out of defending ourselves in court due to lack of money, Lord Justice Elias has called Unison ‘shabby’.

The judge went on to say: ‘Imagine if it was an employer trying to do it to a union, one would be shocked’. In another attack he said: ‘What do you want, do you want no opposition at the appeal, is that it? Or is this just a grudge match?’

Unison is wasting members’ money by appealing against two previous decisions by the courts that found that the union leadership’s action against the four was ‘unjustifiable’.

On 17 July Unison demanded the right to claim costs if they win the appeal. The four’s costs are £100,000. But the Unison leadership’s demands were thrown out of court.

It is disgraceful that, through this demand for costs, Unison risked reinforcing case law by defending the bosses’ right to claim costs against workers. It is bad enough that the union is acting in a malicious way against us. But to damage the rights of all British workers is unforgivable.

99.9% of employment tribunal cases will obviously be a worker verses an employer. In most cases workers cannot have costs awarded against them in an Employment Tribunal or Employment Appeal Tribunal.

But if a worker wants to appeal or defend an appeal to the court of appeal against an employer, they can face costs of £100,000 or more if they lose. In most cases this allows a bullying employer to force workers to back down.

It is clear that the Tories are looking to ratchet up the anti worker laws to aid the employers in carrying out cuts and protect their profits. They have already given the right to the bosses to unfairly sack a worker who has less than two years’ service without being taken to a tribunal. They are about to charge workers £1,200 if they want to lodge a claim at a tribunal – which they will not necessarily get back even if they win.

Through this attempt to extract costs, the Unison leadership was seeking to further weaken a worker’s right to take on the employers in the courts.

We could not have afforded to defend our case if we had not won this costs protection order, so we would have had to withdraw. Unlike in the lower courts, the case would have gone ahead in our absence.

If in those circumstances Unison had won, it could not have claimed its costs against us anyway. So Unison had nothing to lose by stating it wouldn’t claim costs against us – unless of course its intention was to bully us out of being represented.


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