UNISON legal victory sees employment tribunal fees scrapped

Supreme Court verdict follows four-year fight by union and is a victory for everyone in work

Employment tribunal fees will be scrapped after UNISON won a landmark court victory against the government this morning. 

The Supreme Court – the UK’s highest court – has unanimously ruled that the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees four years ago.

From today, anyone who has been treated illegally or unfairly at work will no longer have to pay to take their employers to court – as a direct result of UNISON’s legal challenge.

 The government will also have to refund more than £27m to the thousands of people charged for taking claims to tribunals  since July 2013, when fees were introduced by then Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling.

Anyone in England, Scotland and Wales wanting to pursue a case against their employer has had to find as much as £1,200. This has been a huge expense for many low-paid employees, says UNISON.

Reacting to this morning‘s decision, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The government is not above the law. But when ministers introduced fees they were disregarding laws many centuries old, and showing little concern for employees seeking justice following illegal treatment at work.

Read the full Supreme Court judgement in
R (on the application of UNISON) v Lord Chancellor

 “The government has been acting unlawfully, and has been proved wrong – not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too.

 “It’s a major victory for employees everywhere. UNISON took the case on behalf of anyone who’s ever been wronged at work, or who might be in future. Unscrupulous employers no longer have the upper hand.

 “These unfair fees have let law-breaking bosses off the hook these past four years, and left badly treated staff with no choice but to put up or shut up.

“We’ll never know how many people missed out because they couldn’t afford the expense of fees. But at last this tax on justice has been lifted.”

 UNISON assistant general secretary Bronwyn McKenna added: “The Supreme Court correctly criticised the government’s failure when it set the fees to consider the public benefits flowing from the enforcement of legal rights enacted by Parliament.  

 “The effective enforcement of these rights is fundamental to parliamentary democracy and integral to the development of UK law. UNISON’s case has helped clarify the law and gives certainty to citizens and businesses in their everyday lives.”

 The decision marks the end of a four-year fight by UNISON to overturn the government’s introduction of fees.

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Unison responds to outrageous allegations made by Tory councillors

Dear Councillor Janio and Wealls,

I hope this finds you well.

I have read, with dismay but interest, the article in The Evening Argus  (Mon 17th July 2017) “New Funding to take Pressure off Park Staff”.

It is stated that your group is concerned around some of the 600,000k budget underspend being spent  on “more support” for the unions and as a bribe to keep the unions quiet after recent threats of industrial action over the outsourcing of learning disability services.

I am shocked, although not surprised, that politicians of your calibre are reduced to political point scoring such as this.  There have been absolutely no discussions between UNISON and BHCC around paid facilities time and I would like you to evidence where this has happened, either via e-mail, phone  or face to face conversations with anyone.  Indeed the current funding of UNISON by BHCC for paid facilities time is no greater this year than last so where the idea of UNISON receiving more financial support comes from is pure imagination on your part I am sorry to say.

With regard to the idea that UNISON has in any way been “bribed” by BHCC in keeping their paid facilities time by not taking industrial action due to the outsourcing of LD services, this is absolutely not true and holds no weight.  As you know, right up until the last day before the services transferred to Grace Eyre, UNISON was campaigning for these services to remain in-house; hardly the actions of a union which had been bribed by the employer to stop any actions preventing the transfer.  An indicative ballot of our members was taken, months after any budget requirement to save the 50k towards facility time and at no time did any discussion take place (other than to notify the employer of the result of the indicative ballot)  between UNISON (me as Branch Secretary) and BHCC around any industrial action being mooted.

I am formally requesting that these comments be retracted; it is nothing short of slanderous and disgraceful that you deem such terminology acceptable to use about a sovereign trade union who has proven itself time and time again to have integrity in all its’ dealings with this employer; indeed over many years we have worked together with BHCC to not only save money (millions during the equal pay claim years) but to find mutual solutions to the many and varied issues which have arisen.  Should a retraction not be made I will have no alternative but to seek legal advice as to any actions this branch can take against individuals who have slandered this union with these lies.

Whilst I, as Branch Secretary of UNISON, do not expect you to particularly support us,  I do expect honesty and integrity to play its’ part and I am sorry to say that on this occasion, you have fallen far short of either of those values in making such spurious claims as have been reported in the Argus.  This union does not need to engage in any such nefarious activity as accepting any sort of bribe; our successes are based on solid negotiation and the great support our membership show to its’ union when asked to do so on issues which affect our members adversely.  You do a great dis-service to our thousands of members that rely on this branch to offer them the support and representation that they deserve in a lawful way, upholding our values of honesty, integrity and truth!

I expect an apology and look forward to hearing from you in regard to the above.

Sue Beatty

Branch Secretary

UNISON Brighton & Hove Branch

01273 291619

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Get help with school uniform costs this summer

If you are a Unison member with school-age children and are struggling to make ends meet, you may be interested to know that the union has set up a limited fund to help members on low incomes with school uniform costs.

To apply download an application form from the national Unison website at unison.org.uk/thereforyou or contact Unison Direct on 0800 0857 857.

The closing date for applications is 21st July 2017.

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No co-operation with “First Care”!

Dear UNISON member, 

I am writing with regard to proposed changes being made by Brighton & Hove City Council around how you are being asked to report sickness. At the current time, it is an agreed process that you would phone up your line manager and explain you were taking time off. You are then required to keep in touch with your line manager and update them on when you would be returning to work etc. Once back at work, you would have a meeting with your line manager and a Return to Work interview would be carried out (I’m aware this doesn’t always happen but that is what should happen!).

 

BHCC have now employed a third party organisation to “manage” your sickness. This company is called First Care and we have been in recent discussions with senior management/Human Resources regarding the use of such an organisation. A pilot is going to be introduced into some of the directorates and you will be required to phone this company on your first day of sickness, rather than your manager. They will then “triage” you in regard to your circumstances of sickness and will notify your manager of your absence.

 

BHCC believe that this company (which is privately run) will be able to provide the support needed for whilst you are off sick; however, their sole purpose for employing this company is to reduce sickness absence and UNISON is extremely concerned about a number of issues for which we have had no reassurances:

 

· What if an employee does not wish to discuss their absence with a stranger who is not their manager nor someone from BHCC?

· What advice would the employee be given by First Care that they could not receive from their own GP/medical professional?

· What if an employee does not wish to discuss personal information with a stranger in regard to an underlying health condition (this could apply for example to someone with a mental health condition/disability?)

· How is the information given to First Care by the employee stored? How can staff be assured there is no data protection issue?

· What if staff do not wish to take or receive “triaging” to other services; what are the consequences? Would they be viewed as not “helping themselves”?

· What if advice given by this company contradicts GP/medical advisor advice?

 

Because of the above, UNISON is advising our members not to comply with this new process. We believe that the current process of sickness reporting, whilst not perfect, is the right one. Employees have a working relationship with their line manager where, if they so choose, they can discuss their health issues. No such relationship exists with First Care and we feel that is it likely staff will not want to go through their medical history and current situation when they can do so with their line manager. Also, First Care involvement does not mean that your line manager won’t be expecting you to discuss your current health situation with him or her as well and so we are somewhat unsure as to why First Care are needed (other than to work towards reducing absence via less supportive means). We are told that they have a good track record for reducing absence significantly and the concerns we hold are around how they achieve this. In the absence of any clear information coming from BHCC UNISON feels it is right to bring this situation to our members’ attention and to advise members not to comply.

 

If you are an employee within one of the directorates that the pilot is taking place in, and you or colleagues are placed in a position of being told to contact First Care during sickness absence, please contact me straight away. I have advised BHCC that UNISON is sending out and advice and support to our members.

 

With best wishes

 

Sue

 

Sue Beatty

Branch Secretary

UNISON Brighton & Hove Branch

01273 291619

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Orbis, Surrey & That “Gentleman’s Agreement”

 

Yesterday, Brighton & Hove Unison  e-mailed the Chief Executive and Executive Finance director of BHCC in regard to the “sweetheart deal” or “gentleman’s agreement” that Surrey County Council have made with this Conservative government.  The recording and transcript of a conversation between Councillor Hodges and others is within the public domain now.

 

As you may be aware,  Brighton & Hove CC is currently in negotiations with Surrey CC (and ESCC) regarding some Council support services such as Finance, Human Resources, Revenues and Benefits, Premises, ICT transferring into ORBIS (a three way partnership between the three councils).

 

UNISON is deeply concerned,  given the total lack of openness and transparency  Surrey have to date shown about this deal, that hundreds  our members from BHCC are going to be transferring into such a partnership and I have today requested a response to those concerns from Geoff Raw and David Kuenssberg.  Both myself and our sister union GMB have a meeting later this week where we were expected to meet with the new Finance director for ORBIS.  Concerns around such a secret deal having been made, in favour of a strongly held Tory seat, is giving us a good deal of cause for concern around how BHCC can work with a Council that has apparent disregard for the values BHCC holds, those of openness, transparency and collaboration.

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With Friends Like These….. Part Two

 

Following on from the disastrous cuts to public services proposed and voted through at last week’s Full Council Budget meeting, Brighton & Hove branch Unison have voiced their concern, to the Labour administration,  around the cut proposed and voted for by the Labour Group to union paid facility time to the tune of 50k.   This paid time allows  experienced and trained union representatives to engage in all the many and various issues that BHCC corporately need to engage with unions on,  such as collective bargaining,  consultations on redundancies and restructures, changes to contracts, dismissal hearings, etc.  UNISON had already suffered a cut to a full time post at last year’s budget,  making it more difficult for the union to support its members through some very difficult cuts to services.

 

Sue Beatty, UNISON Branch Secretary, said:

 

  The  cut to our facilities time at this years’ budget meeting was as a direct result of a proposal put into the budget by the Labour Group, the very politicians that we would expect and hope would want to see us able to carry out the fundamental support and representation of our members during such difficult times as they are currently facing in their services.  We see this as an absolute betrayal of the long-standing working relationship this union has had with the Labour Group and do not expect the political party which was founded, and is funded, by trade unions to treat us with such contempt!  I have written to Warren Morgan, Leader of the Council to express our dismay and concern.  This branch shall now be meeting to discuss how best we deal with the continued priority of supporting our members as well as the future relationship between ourselves and the Labour Group in Brighton & Hove.”

Brighton & Hove Unison would also like to make it absolutely clear that the suggestion that we can “work around” this by getting existing workplace representatives to pick up the extra work is unworkable. Councillors who claim that this idea came from council unions are in fact repeating “fake news” and adding to the confusion among all those trying to resist these cuts

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Protesting the cuts

Unison members joined other campaigners and members of other unions in lobbying councillors ahead of Thursday’s Budget Council.  They were opposing proposals to cut £21 million from the budget just this year. In the end the Budget was passed but more money was found for the threatened youth service, which had been the focus of a strong campaign largely led by young people themselves. 

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