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Tories’ tribunal fees ruled unlawful

Unalloyed goodness is a rarity in politics, especially when it comes to labour movement politics. But the decision handed down by the Supreme Court this morning ruling that employment tribunal fees are unlawful is some of the best industrial news seen in years. Implemented by the Tories with Liberal Democrat support in 2013, it was ostensibly part of the contrived war on red tape. According to the former Prime Minister, workplace rights were getting in the way of job creation and growth. A convenient scapegoat when you consider the real reason for Britain’s economic underperformance has much to do with business banking its profits and effectively going on capital strike. In reality, the introduction of fees strengthened management in the workplace and enabled a more precarious labour force. Bosses had the freedom to intimidate, bully, and diddle workers without any comeback.

Tribunals have always occupied a problematic place in the Tory imagination. They have the power to impose fines and order reinstatement of employment, though in practice many claimants settle for compensation. However, it represents an extra layer of mediation between employees and employer that implicitly challenges management’s right to manage. The requirement to pay an upfront and non-refundable fee of between £390 and £1,200 to take an employer to tribunal was self-evidently unfair and unjust, and so had to be introduced under a smokescreen of bogus stories about vexatious claims and exporbitant penalties placing heavy loads on hard-pressed businesses. Incidentally, it was cuddlesome liberal hero Uncle Vince Cable who was responsible for most of the spadework done. In his role as business minister in the Coalition government, the new LibDem leader recommended and implemented the raising of the qualifying period for unfair dismissal from one to two years, and advocated the introduction of tribunal fees to “encourage potential claimants to fully consider their cases”. Truly a case of looking from Tory to LibDem, LibDem to Tory, and not knowing which was which.

The Supreme Court judgement decreed that fees acted as a obstacle to justice. As most potential claims are for monies less than the tribunal cost, potential claimants were deterred due to the process leaving them further out of pocket, even if successful. And like so many of the measures the Tory/LibDem coalition brought in, it tended to disproportionately impact women. According to the BBC, the government indicated that it would reimburse all fee payments if they were found to have acted unlawfully. Hardly the language of a party determined to appeal the decision.

From the government’s point of view, it’s politically wise not to appeal. In the quiet of the summer, why give bored headline writers Tory meat to chow down on when, as far as they’re concerned, they can carry on worrying the Labour Party? Even if they are minded to try and push something through the Commons when it reconvenes properly in October, being seen to not be on the workers’ side and problems lining up all the backbenchers present a headache it could do without. There are no opportunities here for the Tories, just cost, cost, cost.

And what’s good news for workers is also good news for the Labour Party. Yet again we have another instance of party policy – in this case the scrapping of tribunal fees – effectively being implemented by a Conservative government. How many more times is this going to happen between now and the next general election?


  1. Bazza says:

    Yes a victory for working people won by trade unions.
    But got thinking today; a comrade had posted a good point on a Momentum Facebook page showing that research highlighted that Denmark was the happiest country in the World – a 33 hour working week, free childcare, free education.
    And I got to thinking how their neighbour Norway set up a Wealth Fund to benefit its citizens from its North Sea oil bonanza in the 1970’s.
    But in the UK in the 70’s Thatcher (after being taught Neo-Liberalism) used ours politically to fund breaking unions and to smash the post war settlement to restructure society to benefit the rich and powerful (and herald in the age of cheap labour) to fundamentally serve the New Philistine Neo-Liberal Masters & Mistresses of the World.
    (They know the price of everything and the value of NOTHING!)
    And these increased tribunal fees are all part of the deliberate Tory Neo-Liberals attempts to disempower working people whilst aiding the rich and powerful.
    Perhaps this victory is another sign that hopefully Neo-Liberalism is on its way out!
    Footnote: Just a bit worrying re Grenfell and potential Corporate Manslaughter charges – this it could be argued could let individual Tory Neo-Liberal ideologues off the hook for their Tory decisions?
    Tory Neo-Liberalism is quite rightly now in the dock and this Left Wing Democratic Socialists finds the Neo-Liberal Tories (captured by this ideology) GUILTY!
    Power to diverse working people!

  2. Andy F says:

    The actual judgement makes fascinating reading. It looks at the history of Tribunals, the role of law in the workplace and the question of the value of the rule of law itself. The judges have been emboldened by the Corbyn surge to stand up to the short-sighted and bullying Tory government

  3. Bazza says:

    Yes hopefully the days of the Tory Neo-Liberal Junkies will soon be over and as left wing democratic socialists we can transform the UK as an example to diverse working people around the World.
    Yours in international solidarity!

  4. Bazza says:

    Bit off subject but dull, uncritical reporting BBC News tonight (31/7) re 100th Anniversary of Ypres where many, many on all sides died for what in WW1?
    Europeanworking people I would argue were set against each other by rival national captitalists powers (capitalism was national then) and driven by beating the nationalist drum supported by media propaganda.
    Lessons for working people – be wary of being set against working people in other countries often for the profits of the rich and powerful!
    Then BBC reporting on Venuzuala (whilst Left there top down have done a lot for the poor) but BBC failed to mention fall oil price per barrel (due to Saudi etc. taking on US Fracking Industry), strike by capital in Venuzuala (with some arguing companies deliberately creating shortages of basic goods – to bring Govt down), probably US meddling and possibly US covert aid to support right wing Neo-Liberal Pro-Us opposition.
    I am afraid the quality of BBC reporting in my opinion is going down the nick when now more than ever we need to build a society (and World) of critical thinkers!

  5. Bazza says:

    Footnote – we should call for peace and for calm on all sides.
    I can understand the worries of the Left there; if the Right gets power they will probably privatise oil (to the benefit of US TNCs?) and will hammer the poor.
    But we should call for an end to all violence and for a peaceful resolution.

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