I am taking Unite the Union to an Employment Tribunal. I was working for them as a temp with Manpower Services. I had a special relationship with Uniteas I sworked for them permanently as a member of staff at their District Office in Hillingdon. The only reason I was temping was because Unite (or T&G as it was known then) did not employ anyone over 65. They were happy for me to be an agency worker and I worked there until they suddenly dismissed me without any reason etc., I am going for unfair dismissal because of age and discrimination (agency staff). I have a problem regarding reprsentation as I am a member of Unite I am entitled to representation at Tribunal if they consider my case winnable. Obviously none of the Union's Solicitiors (who are p[aid my Unite) are going to ensure (1) that my claim Tribunal worthy or (2) winnable. I believe there is a conflict of interest. Manpower are making sounds about representing me but nothing in writing and bearing in mind that Manpower have the only contract with Unite for temps to all the Union's offioces I doubt if they will want to upset them. If Unite have a legal obligation to me where can I start to get their financial committment to my claim for support with another solicitor? Thank you I know this is lengthy but this is a comp,licated matter. XXXXX XXXXX
Province/Country relating to question: UK
I have reguistered online with ET and they have given me a case number XXX, I am going for an appointment tomorrow with Manpower to proceed with my claim but I fear that they will have some pressure put on them to pull out at some stage, even though my contact at Manpower is first class I don't believe that she is aware of how sensitive this case could become.
Can you please clarify your question. Also please provide details of how long you worked there before being dismissed and what reasons were you given for dismissal?
My question is: I am a member of Unite the Union and they are obliged to to at least give my case details to one of their Solicitors who could go on to represent me at Tribunal, but obviously my claim for unfair dismissal is against them. Are they then by law obliged to agree for me to nominate my own solicitor as they would be in a 'conflict of interests' situation with me and I don't feel I would be getting the right support. I worked with them for a total of 15 years, 11 as a permanent member of staff and 4 as a temp employed (at Unite's request) by Manpower.
Sorry for got to answer that there was no explanation whatsoever from them as to why I was dismissed. One of Unite's senior personnel suddenly called into the office asked me to a room and told me my services were no longer required and that I could go next day. The agency were horrified at my treatment, and so was I, and contacted themn for an answer and none was forthcoming and this was on 5th August and nothing has come back from themn to this day. I personally wrote to Dereck Simpson and XXXXX XXXXXley (copying the HR Director Tony Ayres. Derek and Tony never answered me and Tony sent me an e-mail saying he was unaware of all that had taken place and that he would get back to me the following week, but never has. I sent him another request to get back to me but I nor the agency have heard anything.
So at the time of dismissal were you employed through the agency, rather than directly by the end user?
Yes I was employed by the agency. However, the reason I took them to Tribunal is because they state in their policy that they will treat temporaryworkers the same as permanent atff. They do, they pay agency staff the same rate per hour as permanent staff, agency staff get the same perks of an extra day off after public holidays with pay etc., They should have told the agency that they no longer needed me but they didn't they told me first and were reluctant to state the reason for my being let go. The twist to this tale is that I was replaced by 2 ex BA cabin crew members. I was dismissed on the Thursday and the girls were brought in on the Monday. They were brought in on a contract basis as opposed to working through an agency. The girls are cabin crew and did not even have to apply for the job. Funnily enough Willy Walsh iof BA fame is being accused of bully-boy tactics by dismissing personnel during the BA strike without going through proper procedures and Unite (shame on them) are doing even worse because they a Union who are supposed to help keep people at work not get rid of them. Last Friday a colleague of mine that was working there with me (she was also agency staff had been for 9 months) was told to leave without her being given an explanation. She is going to tribunal for unfair dismissal on the grounds of discrimination so she will have the same problem as me regarding representation. The Tribunal have given my claim a case number XXXXX thankfully somebody feels I should have a go at getting some justice,
Being given a case number XXXXX not mean that you have a valid claim. I presume the next step would be a pre-hearing review where you will be asked to provide the legal merits for bringing in your claim and there is a chance that it would still be prevented from proceeding if the other side can show that it was misguided.
My concerns are that you can't make a claim for unfair dismissal as an agency worker. Flexibility is one of the main reasons for employing agency staff and they can usually be removed from a contract or workplace with minimum notice and any repercussions of unfair dismissal. Unless you can show that you were actually an employee rather than agency worker, then it's unlikely your claim for unfair dismissal will be allowed to proceed.
You can still make a claim for discrimination, even if you were an agency worker, so that part may still proceed.
In terms of conflict, then it is unlikely that any solicitor working for Unite will be able to handle your case. You have rightly identified a conflict of interest and they won't be able to act for you. Whether you are allowed to have another solicitor of your choice is not so much a legal right, as it is a contractual one. You need to check the terms of your membership with the union and see what you are covered for. There may be specific clauses that do not allow financial support for any claims against the union, and that is understandable. So check any agreements that govern your union membership to see exactly what you are entitled to.
I hope this helps. Please press the ACCEPT button. You would still be able to ask any follow-up questions if necessary. Many thanks
Expert in UK Employment Law
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