Thursday, 26 November 2009

Blacklist Case Management Meeting

In Parsonage Square, Manchester, on Tuesday 24th, November 2009, there was a scene that would have delighted Charles Dickens. About 30 solicitors, representing over 40 firms accused of blacklisting workers in the British building trade, trooped like rats on a treadmill between the windswept shrubs wheeling their portfolios behind them, to attend a landmark Case Management Meeting at the Manchester Employment Tribunal.  The unions UCATT and Unite were represented at the hearing by the barrister Nick Tongue for some of the applicants, others, perhaps non-union members, were employing their own solicitors and the odd ones were representing themselves. The indications are that these cases will weigh heavily upon the Tribunal system in 2010: last Tuesday, in a day-long trudge through the 20-odd separate cases to find a common legal locus on which to focus against over 40 employers, stretched the minds of these lawyers to breaking point as they twisted and turned to find simple solutions and engineer test cases. In the end, it seems, there will be no test cases as most of the cases have unique qualities and it will prove too unwieldy to run them together as one.

Such was the legal gravy train that has now been set in motion, that it seems some of the employers' solicitors ended up arguing with each other as to who was representing whom. On the applicants side if they start calling for Dave Clancy of the Information Commissioner's Office to be asked to bring the 'unredacted' copies of Ian Kerr's files to the Tribunal: that would be dynamite given that the names of some of the spies and informants would become visible for all the see. Northern Voices understand that before this hearing one firm; the Swedish company Skanska, has said it used the information from Ian Kerr's database to get health and safety information because they didn't want to end up employing 'drug addicts' and the like.

It is likely that most of the cases won't be heard before April 2010, but Steve Acheson's recent case against BMS is set for February 9th, 2010.

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