Bromley council faces employment tribunal over allegations of victimisation of Unite rep

Howard Beckett sat at a desk talking with a microphone

Conservative-controlled Bromley council will face allegations of victimisation of a long-standing trade union rep at an employment tribunal (ET) in Ashford, Kent, starting on Monday (2 October). 
Unite, the country’s largest union, lodged two separate claims against the council’s treatment of Kathy Smith, a council employee and Unite branch secretary. 
The hearing at the Ashford employment tribunal, expected to last up to three weeks, stems from the council’s behaviour towards Kathy Smith, who firmly opposed the council’s mass privatisation agenda. Council bosses removed her full-time trade union facility time in June 2015.
The ET will consider two separate claims lodged against the council in March and June 2016. The claims relate to trade union victimisation, breach of the right to paid time-off for trade union duties/training, breach of the right to unpaid time off to carry out union activities and whistleblowing detriment/victimisation.
The victimisation includes allegations involving a number of Tory councillors directly. Part of Ms Smith’s claim relates to allegations of bullying, threats and aggressive behaviour by the councillors during a meeting of the local joint consultative committee on 25 February 2016.  
Other allegations of victimisation include refusal of time off in lieu (TOIL) when representing members on non-working days, refusal to allow her to stand as departmental rep (a position she had held for the previous 10 years since the role’s inception), and failure to fix the computer and telephone in the Bromley Unite office to allow her to carry out union duties.
Unite assistant general secretary, Howard Beckett, said: “This is a very important case that goes to the heart of the legitimate role of a trade union representative in the workplace and the responsibilities they have to represent their members.
“The ET will hear serious allegations of victimisation against our long-standing branch secretary Kathy Smith who stood up against the council’s unpopular privatisation of local government services.

“Unite is, again, putting down a strong marker that it will always stand up against any victimisation of our workplace reps, wherever and whenever it occurs.”