John Pearson’s letter to the NEC

John Pearson has sent the following letter to the PCS National Executive Committee asking them to overturn the negative decision of the union’s National Disputes Committee on support for his case.

To : Members of PCS National Executive Committee

Dear colleagues,

Request to overturn decision of National Disputes Committee made on 23 February 2015 – Application for Legal Support, John Pearson

Please note that all correspondence referred to in this letter is available on a google drive at: http://tinyurl.com/jw656rb {NB – click once only on filenames listed on a google drive to open them – clicking twice opens and then instantaneously closes them}.

On 25 August 2014, I wrote to Mark Serwotka to inform him of the successful outcome of my Employment Tribunal claim for automatically unfair dismissal for trade union activities, contrary to section 152 of the Trade Union & Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

I had been privately represented at the Tribunal following a decision conveyed to me on 29 November 2013, by the Head of the union’s Legal & Personal Cases Unit, Phil Madelin. The latter had informed me, “You will see that the belief is still that there are not reasonable prospects in this matter. In those circumstances I do not believe that PCS can support the claim to ET in this matter”.

I requested Mark to take the following action as a matter of urgency :

  1. In view of the decision that I was unfairly dismissed, instruct Phil Madelin’s department to meet my solicitor’s fees, upon receipt of his bill in the matter.
  2. Pledge the union’s support for my claim for reinstatement.
  3. Reinstate my ordinary membership of PCS with retrospective effect.

I did not receive a reply until 2 months later, on 24 October 2014, and this was only after union colleagues who supported me had posted an open letter on the issue on the internet. Mark’s letter of that date concluded by stating that he would be happy to meet me to discuss the matter. Despite the fact that I indicated by return my acceptance of that offer, the meeting was not arranged until 15 January 2015.

Before the meeting took place, I had received a further letter from Mark dated 24 November 2014, in which he informed me that the union’s National Disputes Committee had turned down my requests. You will recall that I attended at union HQ on 2 December 2014, together with my colleague Sofia Azam, to lobby the NEC to overturn the negative decision of the NDC. It was as a result of the intercession of the union Vice-President Kevin McHugh on that occasion, that the matter was referred back to the NDC for review following my attending a meeting with the General Secretary and the President.

In his letter of 24 October 2014, Mark had begun by asserting that the full facts of my case had not been made known and that it would not be in my interests that supplementary information which he claimed to possess should be placed in the public domain. I informed him when we met that I have absolutely nothing to fear from the facts and that if there is relevant supplementary information to that which I have already published then it is my wish that he publish this without delay. He has not done so.

In the fifth paragraph of the same letter, he repeated false assertions concerning the trade union activities for which I was unfairly dismissed by the employer, all of which are categorically refuted by the Tribunal verdict. These assertions had previously been made in Mark’s letter to the London Defra branch of the union, dated 10 April 2014. Both the Tribunal’s judgment, with full written reasons and my ‘Commentary on the Tribunal verdict’ explain why Mark’s assertions are all utterly false. That they should have been repeated after I had sent the Tribunal verdict to Mark is astonishing and suggests to me that he had not read the Tribunal verdict before he wrote to me on 24 October 2014. I took these allegations to pieces when I met Mark on 15 January 2015 and it is at least gratifying that he is not pursuing them in his latest letter, dated 23 February 2015.

In the sixth paragraph of his letter dated 24 October 2014, Mark states that I severely compromised the union’s ability to defend me by refusing to submit to Hewlett Packard’s disciplinary procedure following my suspension in May 2013. You will recall that this issue was dealt with in the letter which my solicitor sent to NEC members on 1 December 2014. It was also dealt with by me at my meeting with Mark & co on 15 January 2015. I note that, despite this, this charge is one of two sustained issues upon which the NDC relies in support of its negative decision upon review, which is conveyed in Mark’s latest letter, that dated 23 February 2015.

At the 15 January meeting, I pointed out that although I had indeed disagreed with the advice of the union’s HP Group full time official, Alan Brown to submit to disciplinary proceedings, the difference had been resolved at the time and Alan had soon thereafter written to the HP HR Manager labelling my suspension as an attack on the union and demanding my unconditional reinstatement. Alan’s letter to HP is documented on my branch’s website at: http://www.pcs-hpnw.org.uk/reinstatement.html

I also reminded Messrs. Serwotka, Godrich and McInally of the relevant facts and findings set out in the Tribunal’s judgment, i.e. that the employer (1) had acted unlawfully; (2) had attempted to impose a condition on my suspension that barred contact with any other employee, which would if I’d accepted the legitimacy of the disciplinary process, have meant that I couldn’t continue to perform my union branch secretary duties; and (3) that my suspension came in the context of ongoing industrial action with a one day strike due in two days time.

In his letter dated 24 November 2014, conveying the negative decision of the NDC on my request for support following my Tribunal win, Mark states, in the fourth paragraph, “The question considered by the NDC in coming to a position on your requests was whether the union was wrong to refuse to back your claim to the Employment Tribunal”. With all due respect to the members of the NDC, this was the wrong question.

The request I had made, in my letter to Mark dated 24 August 2014, (as set out above) was not aimed at the November 2013 initial decision to refuse to back my claim, but had as its starting point the verdict of the Tribunal that I had been automatically unfairly dismissed for union activities. I had asked, “In view of the decision that I was unfairly dismissed, instruct Phil Madelin’s department to meet my solicitor’s fees … etc”.

In his letter dated 23 February 2015, conveying the outcome of the NDC’s review of its November 2014 decision, once again Mark indicates, in the first paragraph, that the question was whether the NDC’s view “that your case should not have been supported by the Union at Employment Tribunal” should be changed.

With all due respect again, this is the wrong consideration. The NDC appears to be thinking more like an insurance company rather than like a trade union, i.e. defending to the hilt its original decision not to provide cover, despite the subsequent outcome of proceedings undertaken privately by the insured.

In the ‘Commentary on the Tribunal verdict’, I explain that my case concerns the fundamental issue of the legal protection which union representatives have, under Section 152 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, against being dismissed for carrying out trade union activities. Hence it is of fundamental importance in relation to protection of the duties that union reps do on a frequent basis.

I suggest that it is significant that the employer did not appeal the judgment. The outcome should be celebrated by a union which is interested in protecting its reps from attack by employers.

The Tribunal in my case made the very important finding of fact that an employer cannot take a legimitate union activity outwith the scope of statutory protection, by tagging a ‘confidential’ label onto industrial relations data which describes intended employer actions which impact the vital interests of union members and which those members have a right and a need to see in order to inform consultations.

This judgment is of vital importance to important duties which branch officers perform on a frequent basis.

I call on the NEC to overturn the 23/02/15 decision of the NDC.

Yours in solidarity,
John Pearson

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