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Tories place barriers to Employment Tribunals

by afew Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 09:25:39 AM EST

It was surely only a matter of time, in the wider context of reducing workers' rights bit by bit:

BBC News - Fees for employment tribunals begin

People bringing employment tribunals [claims] must now pay a fee for the first time since they were created in the 1960s.

Under the new UK rules, they will have to pay £160 or £250 to lodge a claim, with a further charge of either £230 or £950 if the case goes ahead.

The higher charges will cover cases like unfair dismissal, the lower ones issues such as unpaid invoices.


It speaks for itself really. This issue isn't about dreadful employees, it is about workers being able to seek justice when they have been treated unfairly at work. Bosses moan about how difficult it is to sack underperforming employees, yet don't invest in decent performance appraisal and personal development schemes.

Unions protest over new employment tribunal fees | Money | The Guardian

The TUC general secretary, Frances O'Grady, said: "Today is a great day for Britain's worst bosses. By charging upfront fees for harassment and abuse claims, the government is making it easier for employers to get away with the most appalling behaviour."


If a worker has just been sacked following unfair treatment, bullying or harassment at work, they are unlikely to have the upfront fee to lodge a claim, plus the further charge if the hearing takes place. The reality is that gaining new employment is hard enough without the risk of being blacklisted for raising a complaint, and bearing the emotional burden of putting a claim together. Add a potential financial burden to that, people are not going to risk losing a tribunal that they already can't afford the solicitor's fees for. A Parliamentary briefing document (pdf) states that those with no or low income can have their fees waived but how many hoops must a worker jump through?

The briefing paper notably sets out the sole aims of the review that resulted in the decision to bring fees in:

The Employment Law Review aims to:

Improve growth through increased labour market flexibility

Reduce burdens on business

Give employers the confidence to take more people on.

The UK Government appear to be taking the same stance here as they have done with disability benefits - point at supposed fraudsters regardless of the cost to the people the system is supposedly there to serve. Or rather, the briefing makes it clear who the system is in fact there to serve:

"The business community have consistently told Government that their biggest concern in relation to taking on staff is the employment tribunal system... "

The briefing also states:

The volume of claims brought in employment tribunals has increased steadily in recent years. The current caseload is high - and shows no sign of dissipating to any significant extent.

Why not explore why tribunal cases are rising, instead of artificially seeking to reduce them by setting up additional barriers?

It arguably may or may not have an impact on the "weak cases" which should be sifted out before cases are put to a hearing anyway. It will have an impact on those who have experienced harassment and discrimination and are frightened enough about the idea of going to Tribunal.

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Posted on behalf of the original diarist who would rather not be publicly associated with it at the moment.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 09:27:20 AM EST
Surely this is where unions come in. In the union? We'll cover your fee and fight your case, if the case is worth fighting. Not in the union? Well, sucks to be a scab.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 12:42:33 PM EST
In Britain at least there's a problem - it's not easy to join a union if you're in a non-union workplace...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 02:06:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You say there are unions that are not clapping their hands when someone wants to become a fee-paying member? Why on earth?
by Katrin on Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 02:17:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, he's saying there are employers who will fire you if you so much as think the word, never mind do anything practical, like joining one - or worse, suggest everyone joins one.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 05:00:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So the problem is not joining the union, but it is starting open activism for the union before it has critical strength in that workplace. I see. Yes, that is always a critical phase.
by Katrin on Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 05:05:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In what way is it not easy? You sign up, you pay your dues, you don't necessarily tell your boss about it, if your boss does not like unions.

Of course, the union might decide to hold this week's "let's picket a non-union shop, because non-union shops are lame" event at your boss' place. But that's got nothing to do with you, does it now?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 02:17:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Thatcher did more than you think to demonize unions.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 06:02:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Considering that the demonization was only the icing on the cake.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 12:49:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A tangential example is given by this incident (see Newsroom):

Two more arrests at fracking protest | Environment | theguardian.com

Police at an anti-fracking protest in Balcombe, West Sussex, pushed back demonstrators on Wednesday afternoon to allow the entry of an articulated lorry carrying pipes. It was the first successful delivery of equipment to the site since the protest began last week.

Earlier in the day two people were arrested over the ongoing protests against plans to drill for oil at a site a few miles outside the village.

The pair - a man and a woman - had glued themselves together at the gates of the site in an attempt to prevent machinery from being brought through the gates. Sussex police said the pair had been arrested under section 241 of the Trade Union Labour Relations Act.

Section 241:

Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992

241 Intimidation or annoyance by violence or otherwise.E+W+S

(1)A person commits an offence who, with a view to compelling another person to abstain from doing or to do any act which that person has a legal right to do or abstain from doing, wrongfully and without legal authority--

(a)uses violence to or intimidates that person or his [F1spouse or civil partner]F1 or children, or injures his property,

(b)persistently follows that person about from place to place,

(c)hides any tools, clothes or other property owned or used by that person, or deprives him of or hinders him in the use thereof,

(d)watches or besets the house or other place where that person resides, works, carries on business or happens to be, or the approach to any such house or place, or

(e)follows that person with two or more other persons in a disorderly manner in or through any street or road.

(2)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.

As far as I can see, no trade unions are involved, but the "right to work" is being invoked to quash any kind of determined protest or picketing.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 02:12:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nothing in that law as written prevents an ordinary picket line.

And of course, unknown parties with no provable affiliation to the union, who take some measure of care to not get caught have much wider latitude in their methods.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 01:05:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An "ordinary picket line", that the law pretends to protect (sic), is one that has no effect.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 02:10:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It gathers attention and permits a platform for disseminating propaganda. And if you're a little smart about it, it also gathers intelligence. For customer-facing locations, they can directly impact the topline without ever resulting in work stoppages.

Finally, one should not forget that showing up and simply standing around in union colors sends a message to prospective recruits: "We are here, and we are many." Same principle as is behind election posters and sticker campaigns.

It won't stop work, but picket lines are not a good tool for stopping work unless you are willing to go full 19th century. And, to be blunt, there aren't enough starving people in our cities to make that particular part of the 19th century playbook politically viable.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 03:42:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If unions are still playing by 20th century rules and the Tories and employers are collaborating to restore the 19th century rulebook, then of course the unions will keep losing.

I guess when they get tired of losing, they'll dig the 19th century rulebook back out again.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 01:09:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well - the standard narrative is that obstructive union action is destroying the economy.

It's like it's still 1977 in the UK. There are plenty of older people who quote the party line, even though the union movement was reduced to a rump by the end of Thatcher's evil reign, and its influence has been waning ever since.

But I'm not convinced we need 20th century unions back in the form we had them.

We probably need 21st century freelance associations, and a determined push to get independents into parliament where they can gum up the works for the 'serious' parties - which is a different game.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 01:17:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Labour Party (UK) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

After a debate, the 129 delegates passed Hardie's motion to establish "a distinct Labour group in Parliament, who shall have their own whips, and agree upon their policy, which must embrace a readiness to cooperate with any party which for the time being may be engaged in promoting legislation in the direct interests of labour." This created an association called the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), meant to coordinate attempts to support MPs sponsored by trade unions and represent the working-class population.[48] It had no single leader, and in the absence of one, the Independent Labour Party nominee Ramsay MacDonald was elected as Secretary. He had the difficult task of keeping the various strands of opinions in the LRC united. The October 1900 "Khaki election" came too soon for the new party to campaign effectively; total expenses for the election only came to £33.[49] Only 15 candidatures were sponsored, but two were successful; Keir Hardie in Merthyr Tydfil and Richard Bell in Derby.[50]

Support for the LRC was boosted by the 1901 Taff Vale Case, a dispute between strikers and a railway company that ended with the union being ordered to pay £23,000 damages for a strike. The judgement effectively made strikes illegal since employers could recoup the cost of lost business from the unions.

Does not sound to different from the last part of your prescription.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 01:55:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
National archives: Margaret Thatcher wanted to crush power of trade unions | UK news | The Guardian

The Cabinet papers published under the 30-year rule lay bare the scale of Margaret Thatcher's long-held ambitions to crush the power of Britain's trade unions even before she had won her historic 144-seat majority landslide victory.

The Downing Street papers from 1983 show she told Ferdinand Mount, then head of her policy unit, that she agreed that Norman Tebbit's gradualist approach to trade union reform was too timid and that they should "neglect no opportunity to erode trade union membership".

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 05:01:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't necessarily tell your boss about it.

But if (for example) you're a construction worker in the UK, your boss gets weekly reports of who has joined the union.

He'll then find some pretexts to make your life harder.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 03:47:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Many construction workers are on a temporary contracts, so employers don't have to do much more than not recontracting the worker.

res humą m'és alič
by Antoni Jaume on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 05:24:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"your boss gets weekly reports of who has joined the union"

Help! Who gives him the reports?

by Katrin on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 05:26:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a long and ugly story. Perhaps I'll have time to diary it one day.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 09:12:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In short - there was a long time government surveillance unit dedicated to monitoring union activity in the construction industry. This came out recently. However, much like the NSA thing, there's circumstantial evidence that the monitoring goes much wider.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 11:14:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Construction industry workers blacklisted for 20 years

The union Unite says it has evidence that the vetting of individuals by name in the building industry is still happening, four years after the discovery of a secret list that denied people work for years.

BBC Panorama reporter Richard Bilton has the first TV interview with the woman who helped run that blacklisting operation.

Howard Nolan did not know he was on the list. As an electrician he spent years working on Britain's biggest building projects, but then the jobs dried up and all he had were his suspicions.



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 07:13:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC Panorama reporter Richard Bilton has the first TV interview with the woman who helped run that blacklisting operation.

Sounds like an individual in dire need of a bit of moral suasion, from people whose connection to the union cannot be proven to the satisfaction of a court of law.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 03:33:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then your union needs better cryptography and internal security.

If your legitimate political activity is viewed as sedition, then you need to take appropriate measures to maintain operational security.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 01:07:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed.
But as you said, many people don't realise that we're back playing by 19th century rules.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 01:31:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the UK the primary motivating factor for people joining a union is because they have been asked to and provided with the forms.  That requires a unionised workplace.  

Many employers (illegally) actively discourage workers from joining a union and workers can get blacklisted, especially in the construction industry, for union activity or membership.

Construction - blacklisting

In March 2009 the Information Commissioner's Office raided the offices of the Consulting Association and exposed the existence of a blacklist containing the details of 3,213 construction workers.  They also found that the blacklist had been used by over 40 UK construction companies.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 03:28:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So the bad guys have electronic warfare capabilities.

Maybe the unions should get themselves some of that too.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 03:47:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite a lot of the disputes will cover entitlements within part time contracts. unions in the UK are very reluctant to get involved with part timers, even if it's not by the employee's choice as unions believe everyone should have a full time job.

also, the recent move to pushing people onto zero hours contracts leave peope afraid to join the unions and the zhc is the bullying manager's wet dream where your ability to make money can be entirely dependent on the extent to which you'll not make waves

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 04:16:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
unions in the UK are very reluctant to get involved with part timers, even if it's not by the employee's choice as unions believe everyone should have a full time job.

This is a very, very grave mistake for the union to make.

First you organize. Then you mobilize. And then you walk out on all the insecure part-time shit. En bloc.

If you have lost your ability to mobilize, to the extent that you can't even write a Labour government's legislation anymore, then you are in no position to refuse to organize part-timers.

When did British unions lose the plot?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 04:31:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They have always been very conservative organisations who are always trying to preserve the past rather than improve the future.

In the 50s it was a strength but even by the mid 60s it was a weakness. In the 80s it was the fatal flaw which thatcher exploited with contemptuous ease

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Aug 1st, 2013 at 04:53:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or lawyers?

I don't know a lot about the UK legal system, but the way it works over here, your lawyer would likely pay those fees.  Then if you won the case, s/he would get them back as part of a petition for fees and costs once the case is done.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Aug 3rd, 2013 at 08:16:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...adding:

This, of course, isn't the case if you're an at-will employee.  So, for example, all the lawyers in my office are at-will and, as far as I know, can be fired for pretty much any reason (although it almost never happens).

Whereas in the case of "Career-Service" employees -- secretaries, investigators, paralegals, economists, etc -- the boss needs to have some kind of paper trail justifying termination, and the employee can dispute it.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Aug 3rd, 2013 at 08:20:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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