A Unite workplace rep – 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 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 more than £3,000 by a Liverpool tribunal.
The tribunal decided that as the work at Runcorn was coming to an end in July 2014, 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 rep and a member of Unite.
The judgment 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 tribunal did not find it credible that the claimant (John Kelly) had been considered for vacant positions by Trevor Collins,” the judgment stated.
“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 that the union would not tolerate abuse from employers of elected representatives.
“This successful employment tribunal decision shows Unite will not suffer in silence while employers try to stifle our voice on construction sites,” she said.
“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.
“Today (April 28) workers across the world mark International Workers’ Memorial Day when we remember the dead and fight for the living,” Cartmail added. “Unite reps are workers’ frontline defence against hazardous working conditions and deserve to be applauded not victimised for their efforts.”
John Kelly noted how pleased he was to take on an injustice with the help of Unite.
“This shows that bad employers can be stood up to and be defeated,” he said. “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 praised the case as a fine example of how Unite’s legal services fight successfully on behalf of its 1.4m members.
“It shows the strong benefits of belonging to a trade union to obtain representation,” he said. “We would like to thank the efforts of EAD Solicitors in bringing John Kelly’s case to a successful conclusion.”
The full ET judgment can be viewed here.