Employment Tribunal finds Unite member was unfairly dismissed for carrying out trade union activities

An employment tribunal has found that Unite member, Paul Judge, was automatically unfairly dismissed for carrying out trade union activities after he reported to the membership on the outcome of pay negotiations via a ‘closed’ Facebook group.

Schindler argued to the Tribunal that those negotiations were confidential but the Tribunal found that no such instruction was issued by the company. It also argued that our member was not dismissed for a reason relating to him carrying out trade union activities on behalf of an independent trade union but the Tribunal disagreed.

The Tribunal found there was no instruction issued by the company that the document was to remain confidential. It found that our member was entitled to share it with members and obtain their views on it. The Tribunal concluded that when he posted the information to the closed Facebook group, he did so as a trade union representative and the employer could not dictate how an independent trade union can or cannot communicate with its members. The Tribunal also acknowledged that we live in a digital age and if social media cannot be used it would severely constrain the activities of an independent union.

This is a very important victory both for our member and the union. Cases such as this are often difficult to prove evidentially, but our member was able to succeed as it was clear to the Tribunal the contempt which the employer had to the union in the manner in which it dealt with our member. Unite warned the employer from the outset that it would not stand idly where our workplace representatives were being treated in this way and, with the assistance of the union’s solicitors, we were able to secure this successful outcome for our member.

Mr Judge said: “After being unlawfully dismissed from my position at Schindler of 17 years I feel that justice has been served, although the amount of detriment caused will take longer than 12 months to resolve. I had no doubts in my mind from the start of the ordeal that my treatment by Schindler UK management was unfair.

“It was clear from the beginning that they wanted to persecute me for my union activities. Although the result was excellent, my career was nearly destroyed, and the strain placed upon myself and my family has been inexcusable. We have shown that unions are a force to be reckoned with and that true justice is served once away from the autonomous jurors of a corporate kangaroo court. I’d like to thank Ross Quinn who has been a true brother, Unite’s regional legal officer, Michael Tighe, and the union’s panel solicitors for supporting me throughout the ordeal.”

Ross Quinn, regional officer, said: “This is a very important victory for Unite and in particular our representatives, who will see that Unite’s legal team will fight to secure justice, for our members. Any employer who dismisses an employee for trade union activity should be under no illusion that there will be consequences.”

North West Unite legal manager, Michael Tighe, said: “At the outset of this matter I made expressly clear to Schindler that their actions, in even instigating disciplinary proceedings, was unlawful given they were disciplining Paul arising from his lawful trade union activities.

"There is no doubt that Schindler was put on notice as to how their actions breached the law before they went on and decided to dismiss him. Paul rightly received the fullest support of the union and our legal team to ensure this Tribunal win was secured.

“Unite will not tolerate our representatives or members being attacked for engaging in lawful trade union activities.”