Labour politicians have welcomed news that the Tories have finally had to do a humiliating U-turn on the employment tribunal fees they introduced, now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the fees were illegal and unfair. Ordinary working people, particularly low paid women have suffered as a result of these fees.
“This Supreme Court decision is fantastic news for ordinary working people,” said Doina Cornell, newly elected chair of Stroud Constituency Labour Party. “It’s taken a 4 year battle by Unison, but finally the Tories have had to concede that what they did was against the law. Now thousands of people will be refunded money they’ve had to pay out - but we’ll never know how many other people have lost out from bad employers because it became too expensive to get justice at work.” Doina said that low-paid women, especially those treated unfairly when they were pregnant or on maternity leave, were the biggest losers, according to an analysis by Unison.
Labour’s Trade Union Liaison Officer, Trevor Hall, said that for many people who are treated badly or illegally at work, finding hundreds of pounds to challenge their boss was impossible. “People have had to put up with unpaid wages, not being paid the minimum wage, being dismissed unfairly, not getting equal pay or not being paid redundancy pay when they were entitled to it. All of that is illegal - but if you don’t have money, you can’t take your boss to a tribunal to make him/her sort it out,” said Trevor. “Most employers treat their workforce properly, but sadly there are always a few bosses who think they can do what they like and this immoral and unfair Tory law gave them carte blanche to ill-use their staff.”
Trevor added that the attitude of the Tories to worker’s rights has been appalling. They took a long time to be persuaded to name employers who still refuse to pay their staff the minimum wage - and when we know that the Office for National Statistics reckons 362,000 jobs did not pay the minimum wage last year, often in hairdressing, hospitality and retail, we can see how important it is to have free access to justice at work. “It’s also worrying that over the last two years the CAB nationally has seen a 58% increase in the number face to face enquiries about maternity leave problems,” said Trever. “They’ve advised on 10,000 enquiries about paid holiday too. Trade unions have played a big role providing advice too - it just shows how vital it is for all workers to be members of a trade union too, to get proper support at work.
“Sadly it’s all too clear that the Tories are not interested in working people and their lives. Theresa May voted for the employment fees, she voted for a cap on pay rises for public sector workers, like nurses and teachers - and she tried to increase taxes on the self-employed.”