Unite in workplace victory for six members unfairly targeted for union membership

Unite the union has secured a significant victory for six members against their former employer, Schivo NI Ltd, after they were unfairly selected for ‘redundancy’.

The Tribunal concluded that the six long-serving employees were actually dismissed as a result of their trade union membership and the trade union activities they undertook within the workplace. Two of the members who were dismissed were shop stewards at the factory and another had been a shop steward previously.

The Employment Tribunal rejected the employer’s argument that the dismissals were due to redundancy and accepted the members’ assertion that persons in influential positions within Schivo had recently shown a dislike or antagonism towards Unite the union.

Unite defended the important principles that workers have the right to be a member of a trade union and that union members and shop stewards should not be targeted because they take part in trade union activities.

In addition to the six unfair dismissal cases, Unite argued that four of the members suffered indirect age discrimination because the method by which the employer chose the pool of people at risk of redundancy unfairly disadvantaged older workers. Additionally, Unite argued that one of the aforementioned four also suffered disability discrimination as there was a failure to implement reasonable adjustments during the redundancy process. The age discrimination and disability discrimination claims were also successful.

The total compensation awarded by the Tribunal to the six members was more than £100,000. Unfortunately, the company went into liquidation before the hearing took place and so it will now be for the liquidator to decide what proportion of their compensation the members will ultimately receive.

This important case reaffirms that dismissal of an employee because of involvement with their trade union will be automatically unfair.

Philip Oakes, a Unite the Union official, commented: “This important victory shows that Unite will take legal action when it believes that its members or workplace representatives are being unfairly targeted because they belong to the union or because they have taken part in union activities.”