Today (Wednesday July 26) is an historic victory for justice as the Supreme Court ruled that the government’s decision to introduce tribunal fees was illegal.
The fees were first introduced in 2013 and have forced workers who for example have been sexually harassed, bullied or discriminated against in the workplace to pay up to £1,200 in employment tribunal fees. Appeals cost up to £1,600.
“This is an historic victory,” said the leader of Unite, Len McCluskey. “The Supreme Court has ruled that the Conservative government was wrong to deny working people access to employment justice.
“The Tories’ decision to charge workers more than many earn in a month to be able to pursue an employment tribunal has been a gift to bad bosses,” he added.
The government will have to repay millions of pounds to workers forced to stump up the cash for their own tribunal fees as the fees order was found to be discriminatory and in breach of both EU and UK law.
Unite had warned the new fees were deterring people from bringing new cases and figures from the Ministry of Justice confirm this. Just 88,476 cases were brought in 2016-17 compared to 191,541 in the year before fees were introduced in 2012-13.
The Tories can no longer claim they’re the party of the working people after attacking basic rights and draining worker’s wallets at every opportunity.
‘Workers will not forget’
“Workers will not forget that this case was only made necessary because the Tory-led government turned its back on workers. The Conservative government is, for sure, no friend of working people,” said McCluskey.
Unions must now ensure that workers who were forced to pay out for their own tribunals are reimbursed fully.
“Unite will be pursuing the government for the return of the money this union spent supporting members in the pursuit of justice,” said Unite assistant general secretary, Howard Beckett.
“While we were determined that no Unite member would be denied a hearing because of lack of money, as the Supreme Court made abundantly clear, this should not have had to happen. We want our members’ money back, plain and simple,” he added.
Unite will also be studying the Supreme Court judgement very closely to see whether the imposition of these ludicrous – and now unlawful – fees has had any wider impact on our members, particularly those who were victims of injury.
“The government has been found out for sure. It put its warped ideology above the time-honoured tradition in this country of access to justice. It is only fair now that it pays up,” said Beckett.
McCluskey is clear on Unite’s commitment to workers’ justice. He said, “Unite has stood by our members and covered their tribunal costs ensuring that they can get a hearing but it was an appalling decision by the Tories to say that a worker’s access to justice was dependent on the size of their wallet.
“We congratulate Unison on this victory today because this will now restore some balance to the workplace,” he added.