No win, no-fee lawyers take on - and could finish off - trade unions

A very interesting story appeared in Wednesday's Guardian, which caught Hunter's eye. Strangely, little, if anything, has been reported in the blogsphere. Rosaline Wilson, a sixty year-old social services manager, thought she was, after reading an ad in her local rag from lawyer Stephan Cross, not being paid enough: she received only 50p more than the people she managed.

Wilson contacted Cross, a no-win, no fee lawyer, who took up her case. Her local council, Redcar and Cleveland, offered an out of court settlement which Wilson wisely rejected. Cross took the matter to court and she was awarded £32,000 (£18,000 net after fees) - some £13,000 more than her council had offered as part of their out of court settlement.

Astonishingly, Wilson's union told her "not to rock the boat" and that they’d "sort it" - something, says Wilson, they never did.

The GMB is now at risk of financial ruin because Cross is preparing a high court challenge involving 5,000 women who accuse it of failing to fight for their right to equal pay. In the case, due in the court of appeal in the spring, the union is accused of sex discrimination against its female members by encouraging them to agree a settlement in the north-east that seriously undervalued their claims and prioritised pay protection for their male colleagues.

The unions themselves say they could face financial ruin as the same solicitors are bringing sex discrimination cases against them, accusing them of failing to represent their women workers properly.

Hunter strongly believes that the big unions have let down the people they were set up to champion. Instead, they're more interested in grandstanding on foreign affairs.

It's possible that these no-win, no-fee lawyers could do what Thatcher failed to do -kill them off once and for all?


Darkersideofbridgetjones said...

Hey you, I've read this, it's a good article. Bloody ridiculous though.

We do need unions though. I SHOULD join a union myself, as a teacher I am vulnerable. I haven't done yet, because I don't like the idea of striking.

I've been teaching now since 2002 and have never been a member of a union.

Kevin F said...


Certainly in manufacturing industry, most employers see the positive side of having a unionised blue-collar workforce.

I worked as a manager in a steel plant in West Virginia in 2005, where the unions are much more militant than in the UK. In such a position, the smart manager uses the unionization to his advantage by getting the union representatives to keep renegade employees in line and rigorously enforce important safety regulations. In the private sector, unions are generally reasonable about pay claims these days because they don't want to cause redundancies. This is not the case in the public sector though.

Anonymous said...

Good article, these free resources might come in handy

Additional Free Resources

No Win No Fee Solicitor Search

Citizens Advice Beuro said...

I've set-up a little web site about feckless unions but yes, we do need volunteer reps and our own human resources workers to try and stop problems before they get to court.

I think that good reps in bad unions should break away and form their own. It's possible to get human resources by the hour and legal insurance for a group.

Oh: here's the site (which also has employment law info on it)
If anyone finds a good solicitor for suing bad unions please let me know!