tribinal judgements third party pressure, unison complaints, political pressure on tribunal service,

Trade Unions are exempt from registering with the Fincancial Services Authority as claims handlers and do not have to give key facts

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page sections
#1.Not discrimination but...
#2.Lawyers on wrong side.
#3.Officials on the wrong side
#4.Bad service to members.
#5.Fob-off or assessment?
#6.Tribunal connivance.


Key quotes:
#1 "Legal procedures were different in a number of ways - the TGWU charged solicitors’ referral fees, for example. BDO suggested TGWU financial controls needed improving."
#2   Property sales and voluntary redundancies
#3   Repudiation of members' protests are a standard agenda item
#10"One firm ... does all the trade unions’ employment work for free in order to secure their Personal Injury work"


AMICUS NEC [National Executive Committee], LONDON COUNTY HALL, 15 November 2006
www.amicustheunion.org/Default.aspx?page=5780

Present:
Derek Simpson, General Secretary, Arthur Adshead, John Ayling, Billy Ayre, Dick Barker, Derek Barlow, Ray Bazeley, Brian Cole, Steve Davison (Chair) Ged Dempsey, Dave Dutton, Alastair Fraser, Pauline Frazer, Gill George, Margaret Hazell, Dennis Haynes, Simon Hemmings, Jerry Hicks, Graham Hunt, Dave Hutchinson, Jim Kendall, John King, Jane Lewis, Stuart McGhie, Mick McLoughlin, Alan Mercer, Mick Millichamp, Janey Moir, Dave Nestor, John Oliver, Rod Pickford, Brian Rice, John Ruane, Charles Screen, Sue Sharp, Mickey Stewart, Bill Spiers, Peter Taylor, Roy Taylor, Meurig Thomas, Paul Tillbrook, Agnes Tolmie, Dave Trafford, Howard Turner, Malcolm Vass, Colin Walker, Gordon Whitman.

Observers:
Ben Benkharmez, Chris Tranter.

In attendance:
Tony Dubbins, Deputy General Secretary, Ed Sweeney, Deputy General Secretary, Graham Goddard, Deputy General Secretary, Les Bayliss, Assistant General Secretary, Jennie Bremner, Assistant General Secretary, Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary, Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary, Doug Collins, Assistant General Secretary, Paul Talbot, Assistant General Secretary, Georgina Hirsch, John Gibbins, Christian Matheson, Richard O’Brien

99/06 Apologies and Chair’s Announcements
Ian Allinson, Judy Box, Sybil Dilworth, Eddie Grimes, Jerry Hicks, Dave Jones, Mick McLoughlin, Tam Mitchell, Brian Pemberton, David Ryder, Linda Somerville, Jane Stewart, Dean Taylor, Walter Wilson, Christine Grant Director of Finance.

The Chair reported that Margaret Lawson had received an award for outstanding service at the STUC Womens Conference. The NEC sent its congratulations to Linda Somerville on the birth of her child.

100/06 Minutes of the Meetings held 0n 20th September and 12th October 2006.
The minutes of the meeting held on 20th September were AGREED with one amendment.
The minutes of the meeting held on 11th October were AGREED with an amendment to 97/06 that the vote was 41 votes in favour and the deletion of Mick Millichamp from those voting in favour. A further vote was taken on the accuracy of the minutes which was carried (Dave Hutchinson voted against).

101/06 Matters Arising
The General Secretary reported on the following matters arising.
(i) 82/06 FBU
We had still not received any correspondence.
(ii) 92/06 Members’ Motions
This had been drawn to the attention of the departmental managers. The General Secretary asked that NEC members advise him of any issues.
(ii) 77/06 (iv) Election Protocol – Age Discrimination
The Director of Legal Services reported that there are legal arguments to justify the protocol but there was no case law as yet to clarify whether those arguments would prove to be valid.
(iii) Pay Review – Equal Pay
The union has made a commitment to conduct a full job evaluation. There was a concern about the cost burden and justifiability of potentially levelling up Education Officers (and consequentially affected roles) to the protected rates currently in existence. (Further details under GPFC report.)
(iv) 77/06 (i) Peugeot
The General Secretary indicated that reports had been received from all regions. Peugeot had substantially increased their advertising budget to defend their market share and had sacked the Chief Executive responsible for the closure. Peugeot’s market share had been affected. This was the first commercial campaign and had been successful. The campaign had largely been concentrated in the Midlands but would now be broadened to defend manufacturing generally. The petition initiated in the Midlands would be circulated nationally.

102/06 GPFC Report
The General Secretary reported on the following matters:-
(a) Regional Secretary Election Protocol
The General Secretary reported that former employees could not stand for the NEC, however under the current rules they were not precluded from standing for other office. This might need to be addressed in the future in rule.
(b) Individual Equal Pay Issues
The General Secretary reported that Gail Cartmail AGS had investigated claims and grievances on equal pay grounds. Arising from this it was recommended that Catherine Bithell’s changed role be approved, and that she be paid the appropriate scale rate for that new role. The Recommendation was AGREED.
(c ) Education Officers – Equal Pay
The Education Officers had submitted two grievances – concerning the termination of contracts and the requirement to report to their Head of Department on their movements and diary commitments. Attempts at consultation would continue but thus far individual consultation on the pay rate/termination of contract had been declined by most of the employees concerned.
Breach of collective responsibility During this discussion, the General Secretary and the Director of Legal Services reported that in disclosure for on of the ET cases against the union, what appeared to be a verbatim note of the September 2005 NEC had been supplied to a litigant. The NEC were reminded of their responsibility under rule particularly when disclosure would undermine the Union’s position in relation to legal cases taken against Amicus. The Chair suggested that appropriate action would need to be taken if there was any repetition. This was AGREED.
(d) TGWU Merger
Following the agreement of the Instrument of Amalgamation at the previous NEC meeting, the General Secretary had held further discussions with the TGWU on the final detail of the Instrument. The General Secretary reported that concerns had been expressed at the TGWU GEC about the term ‘accredited workplace representative’, particularly in relation to participation in the new union’s democratic lay structures (other than sector conferences and committees). After discussion, new wording had been provisionally agreed to allow the NEC to define a new term of ‘accountable representative of workers’. Branch Officers in employment, convenors and shop stewards, health and safety and equality reps must be included (others could be added) and discretion would be allowed to cater for the specific needs of sectors.We had rejected an increase in the size of the JEC. The TGWU wanted area activist conferences to elect to regional councils. However, it had been AGREED to allow the rules commission to deal with this.
The Wales TUC would be added to the list of affiliations.
The TGWU wanted to make it clear that the national and regional political committees operated under the control of the NEC. These committees would be based on accountable activity.
The word ‘local’ would be added to the rules relating to branches. The new wording provisionally agreed, to amend the instrument, was as follows:

Para 1.2.6
To affiliate to the TUC, ICTU, Welsh and Scottish TUCs and other appropriate trade union cooperation/coordination bodies domestically and internationally.

Para 5.4.e (2)
Branch membership shall be allocated on the basis of workplace if there is a workplace branch at the member’s workplace; or the nearest local branch if there is not a workplace or national branch.

Para 5.4 i (c)
In order to be eligible to be a candidate for election for, or hold office on, the Executive Council and any constitutional committee, the member in question must be an accountable representative of workers.

1. The definition of such a term shall be in the exclusive power of the lay Executive Council, which is empowered to take into account changing industrial realities and the unique nature of some industries e.g.(construction, contracting, leisure, rural etc) in formulating such a definition. It must nevertheless include branch officeholders who are in employment, shop stewards, health & safety and equalities representatives.

2. It is further required that a fair procedure be developed to deal sympathetically with cases where a members’ eligibility to stand for election or continue to hold office may be affected by employer victimisation

It was AGREED to amend the instrument and general rules accordingly and to give further discretion to the General Secretary to deal with any other points, within the principles already agreed, as may be necessary as the TGWU prepare for their BDC. In addition to activist meetings on the General Secretary’s tour, it was further reported that the E-activist had already gone out, the next Activist would contain a special four- page pull out and the next issue of the magazine would be devoted almost entirely to the merger. Posters and stickers would be distributed. A special podcast would be launched. Regional e-activists would be issued. Meetings of national sector committees were also planned and appropriate material would be put on the website.

#1A summary of the due diligence report from BDO Stoy Hayward had been circulated. This had reviewed all the available financial information which had been adjusted to place the information on a comparable basis. After pension deficits the new union would have net assets of over £200 million formed equally from the two sections. Contribution income was also very similar although Amicus had more paying members. TGWU branch costs were higher. Staff numbers were similar. Legal procedures were different in a number of ways - the TGWU charged solicitors’ referral fees, for example. BDO suggested TGWU financial controls needed improving. In the TGWU membership processing and payroll were decentralised. Neither union needed to merge for financial reasons – the pension deficits could adequately be covered by existing assets. The due diligence report was AGREED.


(e) Foreign Workers
It was AGREED that the Union undertake a feasibility study of the servicing consequences of recruiting workers in a foreign language.

103/06 Finance Report
The General Secretary referred to the management accounts of September 2006.
Income was under budget although monthly receipts had stabilised
Expenditure was also under budget due to the reductions in payroll, underspend by regional councils and branches, and lower professional charges and unrecovered VAT.
Property sales this year were well in surplus with further income from investments.
Significant VR [voluntary redundancy] and extra pension costs has been incurred. The report was AGREED.

104/06 2007 Budget
The General Secretary presented the budget for 2007 which the GPFC were recommending, included a contribution increase, a reduction in non-payroll budgets, a normal pay rise, that the new pension arrangements would commence in July 2007, the agreed £5 million injections into the fund would take place in 2007 and that there would be no extra VR payments. The union would make a projected operational surplus but an overall deficit after non recurring costs.

After questions and discussions it was AGREED to:-
i) increase contributions to £9.95/month from 1st January 2007
ii) to ask budget holders to make a further 10% reduction in their budgets
iii) consult staff and officer committees about the position and possiblesavings
iv) proceed with the property disposal programme
v) continue with plans for refurbishment at Esher, the new office in Derbyand the union’s campaigning work.

105/06 GPFC Report Resumed
a) CMA Bylaws: The bylaws were AGREED.
b) Turner & Newall: The NEC welcomed the news that the government had announced it would not seek to recover benefit payments from the payments made to Turner & Newall former employees. Tribute was paid in particular to the work of Terry Rooney MP, co-Chair of the Amicus Parliamentary group, for his work to achieve this success.
c) Contribution Rates: The General Secretary reported that an investigation had begun with a view to reducing the number of different contribution rates.
d) Port Talbot Disaster : Bro Mike Hutin: Bro Hutin, a member of Amicus, had lost his son, a member of Community, in an accident at Corus Port Talbot in 2001. Community represented all those concerned. Corus had been found not responsible at inquest, and, as a consequence, Mr Hutin had been awarded little compensation as he was not financially dependant on his son (thus left with statutory fixed damages for bereavement). He then challenged statements on the Amicus website that the union was supporting injured members at Corus. The General Secretary had received correspondence and emails from Bro Hutin but unfortunately, due to an administrative error, a response had not been sent to his second letter. However, there was no action the union could take. The branch was now pursuing the issue. The matter had now been raised by Bro Hutin’s
branch. The union had given extensive other legal help to those involved and also seeks to have the statutory damages for bereavement in England and Wales increased.
It was AGREED that the GPFC review the correspondence and that the Regional Secretary, National Officer and Regional Officer meet Bro Hutin once again to establish if there is any further assistance that he can be afforded by the union.

106/06 Political Report
Tony Dubbins DGS presented the report. The Party’s recommendation to the Phillips investigation into funding of Political Parties was largely based on the TULO submission. It was AGREED that:-
i) the NEC representatives on the National Political Committee would be: Howard Turner, Brian Pemberton, Margaret Lawson, Alan Mercer, Meurig Thomas, Agnes Tolmie
ii) the union commitment to TULO of £132,000 would be paid.
107/06 Correspondence
a) From Ringwood Branch concerning lay members mileage allowance. It was agreed that this be NOTED as the matter was under review.
b) From North West Regional Council concerning distribution of information on members to branches.
It was AGREED that this had already been agreed by the NEC and actioned.
c) From North West Regional Council concerning Norwich Union closure of Liverpool call centre.
It was AGREED to give support to members in this dispute.
d) From Hazards Campaign for their 2007 Conference
It was AGREED to make a donation of £10k and that sectors be invited to send delegates.
e) From stewards at Hunterston A and B concerning the dispute.
It was AGREED to make payments from the hardship fund.
f) From Cambridge Medical branch concerning Scientists for Labour.
It was AGREED that the union affiliate subject to cost from the appropriate fund.
g) From Yorkshire Regional Council and Activist Quarterly concerning proof of identification for full time officials.
It was AGREED that the General Secretary investigate.
h) From East Midlands Regional Council concerning oppression of trade unions in Zimbabwe.
The motion was AGREED.
i) From West Midlands Regional Secretary concerning the Pantheon of Pioneering Black Leaders.
It was AGREED to refer this back to the region.
108/06 Changes to the HSBC Bank Mandate
The following changes were AGREED.
New signatories added to all Head Office HSBC Bank Accounts held by the Union: Derek Simpson, Christine Grant, Christine Quintyne, Mohan Arunachalam, Existing signatories now removed from the accounts: Michael Cardell, Ken Jackson. The current revised signatories on the HSBC Head Office Bank Accounts are therefore:- Derek Simpson, Christine Grant, Pam King, Christine Quintyne, Mohan Arunachalam.
The above signatories are authorised to sign as follows: Either Derek Simpson or Christine Grant plus one other signatory for all payments.
The following resolution was also AGREED:
That bank accounts be continued with HSBC Bank plc and the bank is authorised to:-
1. pay all cheques and other instructions for payment or accept instructions to stop such payments signed on behalf of the union by the revised signatories, whether any account of the Union is in debit or credit;
2. deliver any item held on behalf of the Union by the bank in safe keeping against the written receipt of the signatories; and
3. accept the signatories as fully empowered to act on the behalf union in any transactions with the Bank (including closing any account(s)).
4. that the General Secretary from time to time is authorised to supply the Bank as and when necessary with lists of persons who are authorised to sign, give receipts and act on behalf of the union, and that the Bank may rely upon such lists.
That these resolutions remain in force until cancelled by notice in writing to the Bank, signed by the Chairperson or Secretary from union,
and the Bank shall be entitled to act on such notice whether resolutions have been validly cancelled or not.

109/06 General Secretary’s Report
a) Equalities Conference
The General Secretary reported that the conferences had been successful. It was AGREED to:-
i) nominate Adam Umney for the observer vacancy on the TUC LGBT Committee.
iii) nominate Lorene Fabian and Carol Kirk to the TUC Women’s Committee.
iv) To donate £5,000 to Pride 2007.
b) Latin American Conference
This would take place at the TUC on Decmber 2nd. It was AGREED to nominate Jim Kendall.
c) Construction Industry: In view of the problems facing the sector the General Secretary suggested and it was AGREED that:
i. A national meeting of all Full Time Officials involved in the industry should be called, in order to facilitate a co-ordinated development of
the sector.
ii. A pilot organising project to be agreed to test out the proposed structure and approach to recruitment & retention.
iii. A training programme for Officers & activists needs to be implemented.
iv. A national network of regional construction teams needs to be developed.
d) New Organisers
Arising from an interview process, it was AGREED to endorse the General Secretary’s proposal to appoint the following colleagues as
organisers:

  • Heathcliffe Pettifer
  • Nancy Greene
  • Eileen Francis

The General Secretary reported that all are existing employees.
e) Turner & Newall Asbestos Fund: Amicus had been invited to nominate a representative to the Turner & Newall asbestos claimants’ trust body.
On advice from General Secretary it was AGREED to nominate Dick Croft RO.

110/06 Communications Report
In addition to the circulated report, the Director reported that a national demonstration on agency labour would be held next year. The report
was AGREED.

111/06 Organising Report
Paul Talbot AGS reported that an awareness campaign had been run at universities and colleges and that members would be encouraged to recruit family student members.

112/06 Industrial Action Ballots The report was noted.
113/06 Dispute Benefit It was AGREED to pay dispute benefit to members at:

  • Alsthom Power, Lincoln
  • Balfour Kilpatrick, Hunterston Power Station
  • Vehicle Lease and Service, Durham

114/06 Repudiations
It was AGREED to repudiate unofficial industrial action at Visteon UK, Swansea.
[transcribers' note: this has been a regular item on the agenda at each Amicus national executive committee, according to the Dear Unite site, buried in the minutes as though it wasn't important Compared to T&G this is glasnost, but it's still pretty obscure. Since this meeting Amicus, like the TGWU part of Unite, has held these meetings in private even though most of the delegates are already members of an internal political party and likely to do the real business in private before hand].

115/06 Branch Mergers and Changes Recommended by Regional Councils
Eastern

  • Transfer the Hospital Physicists’ Association Branch (0059M) from Eastern Region to London Region.
  • Merge Royal London Mutual Branch (9918M) into the Colchester Central Branch.
  • Merge Waveney Branch (0011M0 into Lowestoft Branch (1877).
  • Merge Dereham Branch (1864) into the Norwich Central Branch (1880).

North West

  • Change the name of the Blackpool & Fylde Branch (0520M) to the Fylde Coast Branch.
  • Merge Liverpool Engineering Branch (0542) with Walton Branch (0958).
  • Merge Padiham Branch (0715) with Burnley Branch (0176).

Yorkshire & Humberside

  • Close Scarborough 2 (0811) branch and transfer membership to Scarborough1 (0810).

116/06 International Report:The circulated report was AGREED with the amendment that an agreement for a European works council at Georgia Pacific had not been signed.
117/06 Legal report: Circulated and AGREED
118/06 Motions to the NEC
a) from Simon Hemmings – that the NEC “recommend that Regional Political Committees should meet at least four times a year and also the General Secretary to inform the Regional Political Officers of this and make arrangements for quarterly meetings”. AGREED
b) from the South East Regional Council concerning manufacturing/buy British – NOTED as this largely concurs with existing union procurement campaign.
119/06 Any Other Business
Policy Conference 2007
Leave to General Secretary


transcript ends

Why this is important

There's a note here that a major union, now half of Unite and formerly the Transport and General Workers Union, sells its members' legal claims to no-win no-fee lawyers, and they do this with the protection of MPs who have voted against any need for the Financial Services Authority to regulate or the former Commission for the Rights of Trades Union Members even to exist. The minister of Justice has agreed with his party's funders and forbade extension of the small claims procedure from £1,001 to £5,000.

Several unions argued independently and via the TUC that it would be wrong to allow the small claims procedure for £1,001-£5,000 claims because the procedure only allows about £80 legal costs; employers could not threaten costs against claiments but, equally, claimants' trades unions could not pretend to act for their members while in fact using no-win no-fee lawyers. A campaign document by Thompson's solicitors and used by Amicus claims that this is "how union's legal costs are paid" and that some unions even ask lawyers to do the under-£1,000 claims as a freebie to get the contract: costs are "absorbed by the union or solicitor", as they put it, and one of the quotes below mentions a solicitor's firm doing "does all the trade unions’ employment work for free" just to get the personal injury business. And this payment-by-freebie isn't the worst; Transport and General tells Stoy Hayward accountants for their due dillegence report to Amicus that the union charges solicitors cash for claims while the Union of Democratic Mineworkers' officials charged a private, unofficial fee to Beresford's solicitors to refer Miner's Compensation Scheme work according to a case being heard at the Solicitors' Regulation Authority.

A TUC argument against the risk of costs being found against either side in £1,000-£5,000 personal injury cases [pdf link] reads "it is completely unacceptable to expect an injured person to run their own case. Most people know nothing about how to get medical reports, let alone how to build a case to prove that the other side injured them through negligence". Another report for the Scottish Executive finds that advice agencies usually don't have the skills time and money to do this kind of work for those who can't do it for themselves.

What The TUC report doesn't say is that union-members like myself have had to study thier own law, get their own evidence, and do an extraordinary amount of work for free while ill so that the union can provide a lawyer once the form has been sent to the court. In Warwick University research on another page, somebody has done his own work finding witnesses to interview and then discovers that the union lawyer doesn't have time or money to interview them: he is there to settle with the other side and nothing else.

Speaking generally, the lawyer then meets the claimant for an hour, skim reads the form without doing any work or reading any evidence and the court - in my case an employment tribunal chair appointed by a Labour minister - appears to condone the practice and want to cover-up any attempt by the claimant to provide evidence or carry on the claim after sacking the lawyer. A bad lawyer is much worse than none at all.

I don't know if the two quotes below are connected logically with the problems of panel lawyers forced to under-quote and over-indulge suppliers of work such AA legal insurance, T&G region one, the RMT and the CWU. If they are linked, I don't know if the firm named is standing-up to the system or falling-down in the opinion of the RMT, but these two quotes show a neat progression which trades unionists should watch-for as nobody will ever spell-out the situation to members. The problem of leaning too hard on solicitors can happen among diplomatic, full-time paid staff with accountants and PR agents at union central offices just as much as it can happen amongst volunteers at branches, but it might be easier to spot amongst volunteers.

  1. A NEW BANNER FOR ISLINGTON TUC : From Paine to the Tolpuddle Martyrs and onwards, a celebration of workers’ struggles: the ITUC banner held by Mick Gilgunn & Gary Heather. symbolising ‘a new campaign for workers’ rights in Islington’

    The spectacular new banner – measuring eight feet by six – depicts Islington’s radical history from the time of Tom Paine. The ... banner, which cost £650 [sic], celebrates the first year of Islington’s relaunched Trades Union Council. TUC officials and Labour members were at Islington Town Hall last night (Thursday) for the launch of the new banner. The event was organised by Trades Union Council president Gary Heather and secretary Mick Gilgunn.

    The design of the banner includes the Angel Inn, where Tom Paine is said to have written the Rights of Man in 1792. It depicts Copenhagen House, scene in 1834 of a demonstration of 100,000 people campaigning for the Tolpuddle Martyrs to be returned to Britain from Australia, where they had been forcibly transported for setting up an early trade union.The banner shows Islington Town Hall, with the red flag flying, and Vic Turner (wearing a red tie), one of the Pentonville Five imprisoned in 1972 for defying an anti-trade union law. In the foreground are contemporary workers, including a nurse. The banner was sponsored by solicitors Edwards Duthie and handcrafted by Ed Hall.
  2. http://www.rmt.org.uk/Templates/Internal.asp?NodeId=101561: "Dear Colleague, RMT LEGAL SERVICES – EDWARDS DUTHIE SOLICITORS: I regret to report that we have been informed by Edwards Duthie Solicitors that they are no longer able to provide the service to our members that we expect and our members deserve. Therefore Edwards Duthie will no longer be working for the Union ..."

The TUC report is a little vague in stating how unions fund small claims at the moment, if their laywers can only claim £80 costs off the other side in a winning case. The report mentions that the average legal insurance premium is about £20 - far less than union membership which can be over £10 a month - but states that unions couldn't afford to pay for more small cases.

To summerise, there are degrees of exploitation of union members by unions, all carried-out in secret:

  1. using no-win no-fee lawyers where economic but still charging high membership dues which are not used for other preventative work by officials, buying-out employers, or other benefits
  2. using no-win no-fee lawyers and asking them favours in return for the work such as writing a lobbying report to government or "One firm with 5 or more partners does all the trade unions’ employment work for free in order to secure their Personal Injury work"
  3. asking for bribes or "referral fees" as an unregistered claims management agency

Legal insurance might not be the only reason people join unions but it's the reason listed three times in the opening paragraphs of the old T&G rule book (alongside taking-over companies for the staff) and it's the only expensive reason other than paying officials: there is an implied contract in providing a ten-pounds-or-more-a-month service that something is provided vaguly related to a cost of ten pounds a month, and these unions do not. They run a claims roundabout. They charge the members for membership and they charge the lawyers for referrals.

A second reason why this is important

If unions paid for anything else in proportion to the £10+ membership fee then the'd have an excuse.
If they employed enough staff to act as officials and go to recognition-agreement meetings, or at least to dismissal meetings, then there could begin to be a case that this low-key backroom work is expensive and so lawyers can be an add-on service that have been given cases for money or cases for favours rightly or wrongly but as a sideline to ordinary union functions. No. No official was willing to read my case or attend my dismissal meeting. Only one official passed through the lobby of T&G's South East Region office while I sat there for half a day doorstepping the man who wouldn't act. Union office blocs are ghost towns. This is a quote from the minutes above:

103/06 Finance Report
The General Secretary referred to the management accounts of September 2006.
Income was under budget although monthly receipts had stabilised
Expenditure was also under budget due to the reductions in payroll, underspend by regional councils and branches, and lower professional charges and unrecovered VAT.
Property sales this year were well in surplus with further income from investments.
Significant VR [voluntary redundancy] and extra pension costs has been incurred. The report was AGREED.

The paid-for parts of union services do not do anything in proportion to the money paid to them.

A third reason why this is important - quoting from
Referral arrangements and legal services research report, p46, Prepared for the Strategic Unit of the Law Society
Moulton Hall Ltd, June 2007

Large numbers of people find these facts to be facts of life, from the solicitors who pay referral fees to party members who condone expensive party funding and get a cut to the people who work for the TUC or who work as union officials,or newspaper editors who don't think there's an interesting story or firms of lawyers who bribe unions to give them no-win no-fee legal work while glossing-over the arrangement to members. Even union activists, when they come to realise just how bad their regional office is, tend to cover-up the problem rather than giving-up on it and asking colleagues to start a union from scratch.

Thousands of people know about this scam and are doing nothing to protect their fellow employees who get bullied out of jobs. Maybe we should have a massive granite memorial in each public part listing the names of the shits and carve each one in Roman type for future generations to spit at? The last word to an anonymous lawyers quoted in Referral arrangements and legal services research report, p46, Prepared for the Strategic Unit of the Law Society By Moulton Hall Ltd, June 2007: [PDF download] [HTML link]


Some firms feel TLS [The Law Society] has let them down by not standing up to government on

  • Trade unions being exempt from disclosing referral fees
  • Allowing larger firms of solicitors to “get into bed with insurers”


“I don’t feel TLS has enough power. Even commercially, the reality of the matter is that unions and insurance companies are more important to the government than solicitors are, in terms of a lobbying group. And that is a fact. We've seen it [Page 46] happening, and the Compensation Bill is a perfect example. That unions were exempt, and not only that unions were exempt, you had a decision of the House of Lords overturned following pressure over asbestosis claims, following pressure by unions. So you got direct intervention by the government to overturn a decision of the House of Lords, that compensation is not merited in certain cases of mesophaelioma cases. Direct intervention. And that is political. And we haven't got that power”

[Another firm quoted anonymously:] (Has referral arrangements, PI, <5 partners)

“I find it offensive that unions are being told that they can be exempt from the rules and not say to the client how much referral fees they are receiving. In fact they offer a litigation alternative, or funding alternative to the client which is on a par to what I can offer, yet they are allowed to enter into an arrangement with a solicitor, who must under the rules, in any event, disclose to the client how much he is paying and what the arrangements are. And in fact must not accept the introduction from the union if the client has been told he cannot choose his own solicitor. That is a rule within the rules of professional conduct. Now, I want to know what is being done against XXX in that regard. Nothing. After being investigated, nothing at all. So how can you then go back to a small firm and say, 'You know what? You've breached the rules.' That's unfair. That's clearly in my view discriminating between one and the other. Is it going to be sorted? I'm very, very pessimistic”.

[Another firm quoted anonymously] (Has referral arrangements, PI, <5 partners)

There are also a few firms which think that some of the actions by TLS [The Law Society] are made in the interest of larger firms and that the individuals within TLS make decisions that benefit the firm they work for and may not be of benefit to the wider profession.

“I think TLS is more interested in what XXXX and YYYY have to say. In my view they are the biggest offenders, with their relationships with the unions. And the whole thing starts from there. You've got people who want to introduce rules that benefit themselves through arrangements which they say to me are no good....

Which is unfortunate because we're one profession where possibly we're entitled to our say. The reason why things are not being done, or changes are not being made (correct changes in my view) is because it doesn't suit those who drive the forces. If it suited them, the changes would have been had”.


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