John Kelly had worked for Interserve Industrial Services for three years at the energy-from-waste power station being built in Runcorn when he was let go in April 2014 as the project was coming to an end. He was described as ‘a good worker with considerable experience’. Interserve said it had no other work for him but numerous other riggers on the project were transferred to a project on Urenco’s Capenhurst industrial site, 20 miles away.
The tribunal backed John Kelly's assertion that his union activism – he was a workplace representative and a member of Unite – were central to his not being selected for a transfer.
Construction manager Trevor Collins, responsible for hiring new labour, had posted various derogatory comments on his Facebook page clearly revealing his dislike of union members and Liverpudlian workers.
Mr Kelly was awarded a total of £3,253.11 by the Liverpool tribunal for unfair dismissal (£2,003.11) and damages for injured feelings (£1,250).
The judgement stated: “The tribunal did not find it credible that the claimant (John Kelly) had been considered for vacant positions by Trevor Collins.
“In short, Trevor Collins did not want the claimant (an employee representative for Unite and activist) working on the Capenhurst project under his management, he was motivated by the claimant’s membership of Unite and his known activities in that capacity.”
After the tribunal judgment, Mr Kelly said: “I feel very pleased that I took this company on with the help of Unite, as this shows that bad employers can be stood up to and be defeated. The main reason was to show other lads and shop stewards we are getting blacklisted and we should stand up for our rights.”
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Unite will not tolerate abuse by employers of our elected representatives. This successful employment tribunal decision shows Unite will not suffer in silence while employers try to stifle our voice on construction sites.
“This is a great victory which draws a line in the sand for construction industry employers who are tempted to victimise and blacklist our members for carrying out legitimate trade union activities.”
The full tribunal judgment can be seen here [link opens pdf file]