General Secretary's Report - Legal Services

scales of justiceThis are extracts from the section of the General Secretary's report to the 2009 AGM concerning the union's legal services ...

The Union's service of legal advice and representation is of key importance and benefit to our members and their families. Legal advice is provided on all matters via the Union's helplines. In accordance with Rule many cases receive a written opinion on the merits of the case from our solicitors. Legal representation is provided primarily for employment tribunal or personal injury claims although other types of claim can also be considered appropriate.


In 2008 the Union received 401 applications for legal assistance to Employment Tribunals. All cases are assessed by our solicitors and if they advise that the claim has prospects of success, legal representation is provided. The Annual Reports of the Tribunals service consistently show that only 10% of all unfair dismissal claims are successful at a Tribunal. The figure is even worse for discrimination cases, around a 3% success rate. Therefore I am glad to report the following examples of the Union's victories:

Unfairly dismissed and discriminated against by London Underground

A disabled member who was sacked on medical grounds by a new manager after shift arrangements designed to accommodate his disability were reviewed was awarded £166,990 by an Employment Tribunal.

The tribunal agreed that the member had been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). The award is one of the highest for a DDA claim.

The level of the member's sick leave was also accepted due to his medical condition. But a new manager removed those adjustments, insisting that he work shifts on the normal duty roster, and bullied him. The member was eventually dismissed on medical grounds which took into account his previous level of sickness absence.

The tribunal concluded that the Claimant's previous fixed day shift in the ticket office with toleration of a higher level of sickness absence were reasonable adjustments that should have been maintained.

They also concluded that further alternative reasonable adjustments would have been allowing the Claimant a trial period on the new shift system and/or finding him suitable alternative work without the need to attend interview.

London Underground has given notice that it intends to appeal this decision. The Union will be defending this victory.

Right to be accompanied by own choice of union rep:

The Employment Relations Act 1999 says that employees have the right to be accompanied at discipline and grievance proceedings by their chosen representative. The Union secured compensation for a member who was denied her choice of union rep to accompany her to a capability review hearing because the representative was not on the "approved list". The ET awarded the member £660, the maximum award for a breach by the employer of this type.

The ruling by the Employment Tribunal that Transport for London failed or threaten to fail to comply with section 10(2A) of the Employment Relations Act 1999 was an important blow for the union against TfL's strategy of trying to dictate which Union reps can represent them.

Arriva Trains sacks injured member after having her filmed:

A member who was filmed by Arriva while on sick leave with a knee injury and then sacked on her return to work was unfairly dismissed, an employment tribunal found. The member had been told by her GP to exercise the knee.

Interim relief and reinstatement:

A member who served two three year terms on the RMT Executive was dismissed on his return to work after failing a medical. He claimed automatic unfair dismissal and applied for interim relief. The interim relief hearing was successful and he was immediately re-instated.

Other cases in brief:

Health and safety rep denied right to attend a TUC H & S course
Involvement by RMT lawyers resulted in the employer agreeing to extend a leave of absence, with pay, to enable the member to attend the course. The employer also agreed to review its training structure and is in talks with the Union on this.

Discrimination and unfair dismissal
Various awards, including one notable one of £44,000, were awarded to members for cases where the Tribunal found the case proven that our members had suffered some kind of discrimination and unfair dismissal.


RMT has continued to fight personal injury cases for members and their families in the face of attempts by employers and other defendants to deny and delay claims. A total of 701 new personal injury claims were received by the Union's solicitors in 2008 as well as 71 Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme applications.

Below are a few examples [from our Region]:

London Bombing

A tube train driver member who helped seriously injured passengers following the London bombings won a three-year fight for compensation with the backing of the RMT.

The member, from Cheshunt was driving a train in the underground when the attacks happened. He drove his train to Russell Square where he helped passengers injured from the bomb which had exploded on the southbound Piccadilly Line train.

Despite being psychologically traumatised by the event and being forced to go on sick leave for nearly a year he was denied compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Association (CICA). The RMT supported the case to appeal and the member was awarded £4,400.

Thompsons has dealt with over 25 claims for RMT members arising from the July 2005 terrorist attacks on London transport.

London Underground

A member asked to carry a large and heavy water bottle from Kentish Town station to Camden Station received £4,800 after he hurt his back as a result. The member, a Customer Services Agent, did not have manual handling responsibilities and had not been trained in manual handling. No risk assessment was done and his employers had not considered if there was any way that manual handling could be avoided in transporting the bottle.

In total, £2,450,698.16 was recovered for our members last year through personal injury claims.


Asbestos and Mobile Phone Register

Both these registers are being held by the Union's solicitors should the details ever be necessary in a future claim.