March 05, 2008

Rectify Failures of Unison (and other unions) - Petition


I have been employed in the public sector for 20 years, NHS also a paid member member of Unison for 18 years. In 2005 I raised a Grievance against my employer re Bullying and Harassment in the workplace. I feel that if Unison would have allowed me Legal Advice earlier in this matter it would have been resolved much sooner.


We, the undersigned, call on Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister to refuse any further donations from Unison to fund the Labour Party. These funds should be made available to allow victims of Workplace Bullying easier access to Legal Advice. As unlike criminals we are not allowed Legal Aid. There are many of us who have lost not only our careers, families, friends, homes but even our sanity.

Sign the petition


A contact is making a claim against UNISON in an English County Court. She is trying to make a dossier to present to the court re Unison's patern of inaction. She's hoping for emails with

* Short summary
* Name
* Membership Number
* Area Unison Office

She does not need anyone to give private addresses and will treat details in the utmost confidence.

If the judge can see what is common behaviour of Unison and others it could be beneficial to her and to all trade unionists.

More info at:
Also some stories regarding union inaction and/or wrong action:

...One sign of a union trying to divert money away from helping members is when the solicitor is provided at the very last minute - late enough to use the member's own work but too late to do any more and early enough to settle and take a success fee. The typical scam is that there is no clear contract about what's available to members, so an official has to nominate a case to the organisation's solicitor. The member's status is so low in the union hierarchy that s/he might not even meet the official: rejection might be passed via a volunteer, even in a case is strong enough for a private lawyer to win. Or, after pretended misunderstandings and difficulties getting clear answers, there is a sudden change of mind and the member is referred to a named solicitor. A rep reported to me that the union would back me if I submitted by own complaint form to the tribunal. I was given an hours' interview. I asked for my own choice of lawyer but was forced to use one on the other side of town that an ex-colleague had complained about before.

This inflexibility meant something, but I was not sure what it meant and vaguely gave the union the benefit of my doubt. The union had missed basic time limits, and during this interview the lawyer did not want the hassle of reading the disability discrimination questionnaire, the grievance letter, understanding time limits or looking at the evidence which I had in bags full. Nor of course did he tell me the the union had missed basic time limits, although I suspect that he told them when I complained about him

...One reason for union misbehaviour is that disgruntled members are often exhausted, sometimes sick, sometimes looking after new babies, or hoping to keep up appearances at the next employer. They are as unlikely to sue as people who buy fake viagra, and unions know this. In commercial terms, these members are often at the end or their relationship with the union and out of touch with new recruits. Unions know this too. It only takes a vague contract in an obscure rule-book that members don't even see till they are sacked and desparate and the chance of being sued for ripping-off members can be reduced to almost nil...

...A Carlisle teacher who sued the National Union of Teachers (NUT) for failing to give her legal advice when she ran into difficulties at her school has won her case. Joanne Sherry, 48, paid £3,000 over 23 years to be a member of the country’s largest teaching union, but when she sought help from its officers they failed to act on her behalf. Miss Sherry, who taught at Trinity School, asked for help from her union in 2000 when she felt she was being bullied and intimidated by former head teacher Mike Gibbons.

She successfully fought her case at Newcastle County Court yesterday in what is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

With a mounting workload and a breakdown in communication between Miss Sherry and the school’s management, she began to suffer from work related stress. NUT officers, Mike McDonald and Bryan Griffiths, advised her to stay off work until Mr Gibbons left the school in October 2001. The school also issued Miss Sherry with a letter in December 2001 outlining six allegations against her. She was suspended from school for a year. Miss Sherry says these allegations were designed to cause her undue stress and anxiety and force her to resign. She refused to do so and continued to battle for an investigation into the allegations against her.

But, despite continuing to plead for assistance from the NUT, nothing happened. Union reps failed to accompany her to meetings, did not return her phone calls and e-mails and refused to give her proper advice. Eventually, in 2002 she reached a compromise agreement with her employers and left the school due to ill health.

District Judge Alderson said: “The NUT had Miss Sherry over a barrel. They basically told her if she didn't accept their advice then that was it. They washed their hands of her.”

After the case Miss Sherry told her local newspaper: “I feel justice has been done. The NUT refused to give me advice on the procedures of my employers and refused to accompany me to disciplinary hearings. It failed to pursue my grievances."
The NUT must now pay Miss Sherry £3,800.

Factual note 1: Joanne Sherry discovered cheap legal insurance bundled with her home contents insurance after the National Union of Teachers refused to help her, so she used that instead and won her case. Her next job was for the county court service. She sued the National Union of Teachers for her wasted subscription.

Factual note 2: NUT fought the case and threatened Joanne Sherry with extra-ordinary costs if she lost. The NUT then refused to pay without a bailiff visit.

Factual note 3: Hamilton v GMB is a case of a long-serving volunteer rep badly treated by his union because officials believed he told members of another legal deal available at Stefan Cross solicitors, who were no-win no-fee, during negotiations on equal pay. The union held that their second-rate pay negotiation was better for members in the long term than a short-term victory by a no-win no-fee lawyer about equal pay.

Other GMB cases in the appeal tribunal have been about disgruntled ex-GMB staff, rather than the GMB making case law for its members.

Factual note 4: UNISON v Jervis is another case of someone suing a union for bad service - in this case at Watford Employment Tribunal for discrimination, followed by an appeal from the union side. They paid two barresters and a city solicitor to argue their case, while their service to the member had been a volunteer who had "spoken to" a paid official before the two of them decided not to back a case. It was a case the member went-on to win with a private lawyer

...Reality is more like this: A thief mugs you and steals your video. You know there is a problem of thieving and track the boy down because there is no crown prosecution service or police force for employment law. You have to prosecute the thief privately, thinking "the stress is bad for my health and career, but someone has to do this". Then the judge says "what efforts have you made to watch other channels and reduce your losses caused by the thief's removal of your video?". In the judge's eyes, the video belonged to the thief all along. "Anyway, it is all a long time ago and the boy has moved-on to armed robbery and extortion. The fact that you were in hospital after being mugged can hardly excuse your late prosecution, and the fact that you managed to prosecute makes me wonder whether you were ill at all...


5 comments: said...

I have only just discovered this site - I thought I was the only person who got treated absolutely appallingly by Unison. They truly were worse than useless to me. Because of Unison my employer got away with extreme bullying; I went through Unison's complaints procedure, which they delayed interminably, only to deny they had failed me, when they so blatantly HAD failed me. from

Anonymous said...


I am presently pursuing a grievance against Unison who refused to represent me at tribunal after I had been bullied and intimidated at work and was sacked after taking out a grievance against the member of staff responsible. The Unison solicitors said I did not have a case. The Judge at the tribunal I pursued independently said I had done nothing wrong, I had not contributed to my dismissal in anyway and I was made an award of compensation. Unison said well it was just an opinion as was the solicitors. I did not have to take the advice of the solicitors i.e I had no case but that did not mean the union had any responsibility for getting it wrong, it was as they said just an opinion.

Anonymous said...

Hi I am currently experiencing similar treatment by Unison, I became disabled in 2014 due to cancer and stroke and have suffered bullying, harassment and discrimination since my return to work in 2015, I am currently going through the grievance procedure and my union rep was initially supportive but is now very evasive, telling me I have to lodge my own complaint to the tribunal as Unison may think i do't have a case despite having masses of evidence and in his own words my employers have definitely broke the law, I feel i can no longer trust this rep which is incredibly frustrating and upsetting at such a stressful time. I made some developments at work off my own back which my employers have sold on for huge profit, The rep has told me i will have to seek legal advice privately, all I need to know is whether I have the rights to these developments or not. the whole reason I joined Unison was for the 'free' legal advice, Incredibly disappointed with this union.

Alexandra Gardner said...

I have been a unison member for just under 10 years. I ended up being disciplined and even thought the process is still ongoing I believe and has been so for nearly two years, the rep clearly has not read any of the papers, when i put this to him in Jan 2016 & expressed my frustration that despite me explaining verbally to him and providing him with all the information he has requested he still doesnt understand. I am in a bullying situation and unison say that i have not followed advice so have refused representation.

Alexandra Gardner said...

My experience of Unison is that they are a waste of money. They won't support you when you need them. They have incompetent reps who either don't understand or they pretend not to understand. I will be cancelling my membership as in 9 years they have done nothing for me apart from cause further anguish and frustration