About forty years ago I was involved in an Employment Tribunal case as a witness. I’m not so sure it wasn’t called an Industrial Tribunal, back then. Whatever it was called, the idea behind such Tribunals was that the man in the street could make a claim against his employer for acts of unfair dismissal and the such-like. I say ‘man in the street’ because in the ‘70’s men were in the street coming or going to work in industrial situations as part of a long-term need to work to raise a family, whereas women by-and-large worked in preparatory employment, preparing for marriage and raising children. Believe me, I am all for women having careers, it is their right as human beings, but bringing up the limited family of today is often a latter day decision rather than the raison d’etre of a relationship. However, now I’ve stirred up the feminine ire, I shall continue with what I really want to talk about...Employment Tribunals:
Mr Brown sat and told the Tribunal’s panel how he had been treated by his boss Mr Green; then
Mr Green gave his version of events. After a brief recess the Panel returned and gave its verdict. In most cases the combatants were content with this form of official mediation. It wasn’t mediation as we know it today, but a decision made by others to solve the impasse...simple. Well it was, but unfortunately it seems as if simple justice has been hijacked and turned into a golden goose in common with many things with monetary potential.
If you have an odd drizzly day to pass where there is nothing at the cinema or any other form of entertainment open to you, or you simply can’t afford to heat your home, why not sample the delights of an Employment Tribunal? Okay, you cannot sit there with a bag of popcorn and paper cup of coffee but if you find the right case it will be an eye opener...I commend them to you.
It will not be obvious that most of the combatants are legal professionals; but look harder and you will spot the clues...there will be solicitors sporting discreet dark suits with conservative ties or necklaces. They will have their expensive briefcases to hand and be supported by a raft of juniors pandering to their needs. In many cases there will be one or two more vocal adversaries whose patted down hair reveals the fact that they are more accustomed to wearing wigs in their normal daily roles. Huddled behind a desk you might spot the quaking form of a claimant, perhaps accompanied by an equally-quivering representative...each with real hope of achieving justice in a highly personal matter. Sadly though, both will be ill-equipped to deal with the technicalities understood and capitalised on by the various professionals at modern tribunals.
Justice today seems to be a commodity that could have a quotation on the stock exchange; it has a price which is often beyond the pockets of Joe or Josephine Public. Two years ago fees were introduced to further discourage cases coming to tribunals that were vexatious or initiated with the hope that the employer would cough-up just to avoid a tribunal. Unfortunately, these fees have caused ordinary folk to think twice about seeking justice, despite the merits of their case; that, coupled with well-versed barristers that will slit a claimant’s throat with a sharp-tongued remark, has made justice difficult to achieve.
In the coming weeks I may find myself pitted against the vested interests of the system; a claimant friend of mine, let’s call her Bella, having overcome the immediate financial penalties and natural trepidation, has nominated me to speak on her behalf. While I do my best to exhibit super-human confidence, I fear I may turn out to be just another of those quivering representatives.
I shall keep you informed about my friend’s attempt to win justice in a worthy cause against an expensive legal team funded by a global interest with a near-bottomless pit. I do not overestimate my chances; I will not attempt to cover my concerns like an aging wrinkly, slapping an expensive cosmetic upon a lost cause, but this cause is morally right and just. That is what keeps me going.
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