Legal 500 sacked worker campaign intensifies as hostile and abusive manager messages revealed

Legal reference publisher fired two workers on ‘bogus charges’ last November for organising for union recognition

Unite’s campaign against The Legal 500 for sacking two workers based at its London Fleet Street offices on ‘bogus charges’ for organising for union recognition has intensified.

The sacked Legal 500 workers, who along with a number of their colleagues, had in their own time been organising staff to join Unite, were called into a meeting on 17 November last year. During the meeting, they were sacked on the spot by The Legal 500, part of the Legalease Group, for ‘underperformance’.

Unite has now secured evidence of hostile and abusive communications about staff between Legal 500 managers. The managers, who Unite is not naming, wrote messages in an online messenger app visible to workers complaining about the quality of work from staff. The messages said:

“Should we bother giving them a bollocking or can we not be arsed?”

“It makes no difference. We’re just wasting our breath and we have to be all cuddly and nice or else they’ll start banging on about their mental health FFS.”

“It’s the blatant yawning and face like a smacked arse thing that really gets to me.”

“I want to smack people in the face tbh.”

“Haha – so do I!”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “These messages are appalling and are reflective of the contempt that The Legal 500 shows to its workforce. They also demonstrate the appalling environment in which two of their employees were sacked on bogus charges for union organising. Unite will not tolerate this. The company now needs to reinstate these workers and get its house in order.”

While Unite prepares the workers’ cases for tribunal, weekly protests are being held outside the offices of The Legal 500 and their clients including: Garden Court Chambers, 11 and 12 Kings Bench Walk, Essex Court Chambers, Serle Court Chambers and Wilberforce Chambers.

Staff from The Legal 500 say that the dismissal of the Unite activists is an extremely rare occurrence at the company and nothing similar has occurred for a number of years. Usually, workers found to be underperforming are given a warning and put on probation, but the company did not follow any kind of process when dismissing these employees.

They were dismissed from their roles just four days after Unite contacted The Legal 500 to inform the company the union has the required number of members in its editorial department to apply for union recognition.

Unite regional officer Will Searby said: “It’s no surprise that an employer hostile to workers having an independent voice also has managers showing such hostility to their employees. Workers know that the only sure way to address this kind of disrespect is through organising. 

“The Legal 500 need to reverse these dismissals and work with Unite to detoxify its workplace environment. This would be in the best interests of its workforce and the company.”