To the Lord Chancellor
Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Dear Lord Chancellor
Let me introduce myself. I am General Secretary of an independent trade union Employees Representatives. You can find this in Appendix One of the Certification Officers Annual Report. We have been trading for less than five years, our accounts run continuously from September 2011 until now.
All of us who set up ER were and are working class, and as such aware of the deficiency in union representation in the various industries and trades represented by our membership. Our main concern was legal representation. A big union like Unite promises full scale representation, but whether or not the member receives it depends on the assessment of the union legal team. We knew of too many cases where someone had been e.g. dismissed but their case was not taken up because the union lawyers did not think there was a sufficient chance of winning. By contrast we as a union are working on the basis of lay representatives. If we think the case is arguable we will fight it @ the ET. Although like you we are not legally qualified we recall comments of your learned colleague Lord Wallace of Tankerness (H of L, 24/01/2012, col 957) “Employment tribunals were designed at least initially to be simple. Their purpose is to enable parties to make or respond to a claim without the need for legal representation.”
This is public policy but such policy continually frustrated by the obscurantism and the vested interests of an unreformed legal profession here in UK.
I refer to two very recent cases, both of which I have firsthand knowledge:
1. Re Shiju Varghese. He was employed as a care team manager by Angel Care PLC. He signed a work contract in India but when he arrived here the firm unilaterally abrogated it. Eventually he was fired, but all the time he maintained a photographic record of his pay, and it was a relatively simple matter to relate those pay slips against the pay as promised under the contract. The overall deficiency between what he was promised in India and what he actually got was about £35,000. Consequently when he was fired he brought a claim for that amount.
Eventually the case reached the County Court at Swindon. Judge Cronin struck out his claim, on the grounds he had not “particularised” it sufficiently. Shiju renewed his claim in a full hearing before His Honour Judge Iain Hughes QC sitting at the County Court at Winchester on 2nd June 2016.
On his behalf I pointed out the effect of the Court’s decision is to condone fraudulent behaviour, by Angel Care, also to condone people trafficking, as there is no doubt he was trafficked into the UK using a fraudulent prospectus. That the whole exercise constituted a vicious attack on Shiju‘s family life.
Judge Hughes said there was no compelling reason to overturn the original order.
I pointed out three: his first child (Aina Shiju), his second child Elna Shiju, and his third child, as yet unborn.
The first two children have been out of school since December 2015. The trauma inflicted on these children cannot be quantified, yet the Court in Winchester took absolutely no notice, instead rewarding a corporate miscreant and fraudsman.
I move on to the second case, heard @ the Central London County Court this week. This was not an employment matter but a straightforward case for damages v the London Borough of Haringey (LBH).. On my arrival @ the Court LBH counsel came up and threatened that I would be destroyed by costs. She pushed into my hands a draft costs order. We then went into the Court, but the Judge showed not the slightest inclination to listen, either to me, or to my lay representative, my union colleague Barry Blakesley.
Indeed the judge at one point threatened to debar me as a vexatious litigant!!! This was my first and so far only experience of the Central London County Court!!!
He only took the most cursory glance at the grounds for my action before dismissing the case and his whole manner was sneering and aggressive.
But what was interesting was the unreconstructed nature of both judgments, in the Shiju case and my own.
On the basis of this recent experience, including the inadequacies of the Legal Aid system, I have no hesitation in concluding that the judiciary are ethically obtuse, the enemies of human rights, and what used to be the working class.. Our union will not accept that the only persons qualified to comment on a legal issue are those legally trained. As far as I can establish you are not!
William J Spring