A Unite workplace rep, who was blacklisted by his employer Interserve Industrial Services because of his union activities while working at a power station at Runcorn, Cheshire, has won his employment tribunal (ET) case for unfair dismissal.
Unite, the country’s largest union, hailed this as ‘a great victory which draws a line in the sand’ for construction industry bosses who victimise union representatives.
John Kelly, a rigger/erector who worked for three years at the energy-from-waste power station being built at Runcorn, was awarded a total of £3,253.11 by the Liverpool tribunal for unfair dismissal (£2,003.11) and damages for injured feelings (£1,250).
The tribunal decided that as the work at Runcorn was coming to an end in July 2014, John Kelly – described as ‘a good worker with considerable experience’ - was not offered work at the Capenhurst site, also in Cheshire, because he was a workplace representative and a member of Unite.
The judgement stated that Unite regional officer Steve Benson was ‘a credible and believable witness’, while the construction manager, Trevor Collins, responsible for hiring new labour, had made Facebook entries to his friends, expressing his dislike for the ‘Liverpudlian elements’ in the workforce – a large percentage of whom were from Liverpool.
The judgement stated: “The tribunal did not find it credible that the claimant (John Kelly) had been considered for vacant positions by Trevor Collins.
“In short, Trevor Collins did not want the claimant (an employee representative for Unite and activist) working on the Capenhurst project under his management, he was motivated by the claimant’s membership of Unite and his known activities in that capacity.”
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Unite will not tolerate abuse by employers of our elected representatives. This successful employment tribunal decision shows Unite will not suffer in silence while employers try to stifle our voice on construction sites.
“This is a great victory which draws a line in the sand for construction industry employers who are tempted to victimise and blacklist our members for carrying out legitimate trade union activities.
“We welcome Labour’s pledge to outlaw the odious practice of blacklisting once and for all.
“Tomorrow (Tuesday 28 April) workers across the world mark International Workers’ Memorial Day when we remember the dead and fight for the living. Unite reps are workers frontline defence against hazardous working conditions and deserve to be applauded not victimised for their efforts”.
John Kelly said: “I feel very pleased that I took this company on with the help of Unite, as this shows that bad employers can be stood up to and be defeated. The main reason was to show other lads and shop stewards we are getting blacklisted and we should stand up for our rights.”
John Kelly was dismissed in April 2014, but subsequently found work with another company unconnected with this case.
Unite director of legal, affiliated services & membership Howard Beckett said: "This is a fine example of how Unite's legal services fight - and is successful - on behalf of our 1.4 million members. It shows the strong benefits of belonging to a trade union to obtain representation. We would like to thank the efforts of EAD Solicitors in bringing John Kelly's case to a successful conclusion."
Read the full ET judgment [PDF]
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2061 or 07768 693940.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.