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They CAN’T do THAT, can they?

Asked on the phone: “How can I recruit people to the union? What should I tell them?” I found myself later emailing the caller “10 reasons to join UCU”. But for me the ONE, main reason to belong to any union is to work collectively, with others, to enforce any rights that you may have and to establish new ones.

I have often been asked: “Can they DO that?” My response is often an unspoken: “Well, they’ve done it anyway, haven’t they.” Sometime the meaning behind the question is put a little more plainly: “Surely there’s a law that say they can’t do that.” And often, yes, there is.

But, for example, in 2010-2011 from the 5,000 cases where it was upheld that the claimant had been unfairly dismissed, only 8 orders for reinstatement or re-engagement were made. Most of the others will have received financial compensation. But the average award for unfair dismissal was just a little bit more than 2 months’ salary and only around 60% of these awards were ever paid.

So I was particularly struck by a blog post which was passed to me which argues organisation in the work place over litigation in the courts. David Renton is a historian and political activist and a barrister at Garden Court chambers. He maintains a blog called “Struck Out” in which he writes about the Employment Tribunal.

David argues in an article on his blog that although legal rights are valuable the best place to enforce those rights is in the workplace and not in the court.

“Often when people organise they find that managers will concede rights, knowing that these are rights set out in law.”

” Managers don’t like it when they are confronted by campaigns involving large groups of workers. “

“Sometimes, the threat of a Tribunal claim can be the most effective means of concentrating a manager’s mind – especially where the managers checks with their employer’s solicitor and the message comes back that the right exists, and a Tribunal is likely to enforce it. [so] threatening litigation can be effective, so long as the workers involved understand that the threat is part of negotiations, and that (if you want to win) the beginning of the process is organising.”

David’s article, which also lists and explains five of your rights in law, is here:

NB – This blog has been marked private. However David’s book is available here:

Struck Out: Why Employment Tribunals Fail Workers and What Can be Done
David Renton


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