The new Strategic Case Unit has taken on its first project and has launched a legal appeal case at the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).
The case concerns Unite member Russ Blakely who was employed as a pipefitter on the NHS funded Broadmoor hospital redevelopment project in 2016 where the main contractor was Kier and the mechanical contractor was Fascel.
Blakely got the job from an employment agency and was paid via an umbrella/payroll company.
He was paid weekly and was charged a weekly fee of £18 by the umbrella firm.
He was also charged the employer’s national insurance contributions, labelled on his payslip as ‘HMRC Payment NIERS’. In total during his time on the site he was charged £324 in management fees and £725.59 in employer NICs.
With the support of Unite Legal Services, Blakely took an employment tribunal case for unlawful deduction of wages for the management company deductions and the employer’s national insurance.
He also claimed for the accrued holiday pay he had earned and not been paid.
The case was initially heard at the Reading Employment Tribunal which dismissed the claim as they found he was not a worker.
Unite lodged an appeal with the EAT on 3 March 2017 and is hoping any decision will set a legal precedent.
Unite, assistant general secretary for legal services, Howard Beckett, said: “Unite has drawn a line in the sand and will be throwing the full force of our resources behind our members who are sick of being exploited and treated as disposable units that can be hired and fired at will.
“We expect the EAT will uphold our appeal and establish a legal precedent for employers and agencies operating these sham contracts, which bear no relationship to the actual employment relationship, and mean this exploitation loophole can be closed.
“Companies big and small need to take note that Unite’s Strategic Case Unit has been set up for dealing with precisely this type of legal case and we will be shining a light those who seek to shamelessly dodge worker rights with bogus self-employment and other precarious models and those that allow this to occur in their supply chains.”
“Whilst this isn’t the type of case or appeal that a mistreated worker might bring on their own, employers should beware, as Unite members have the unwavering support of the UK’s largest trade union.”