24 February 2015 #Employment
In a case involving Ed Miliband, the GMB is appealing a judgment by an employment tribunal that it unlawfully discriminated against a GMB member and who worked for the union for his “left-wing democratic socialist beliefs”. The case, reported in The Times this week, is not the first case where such a political belief has been found to constitute a belief protected under the Equality Act.
In a case last year, a Labour candidate in a local election was dismissed on grounds of gross misconduct for standing as a councillor in breach of the council’s procedures and for writing a letter to a newspaper. His beliefs were found to be protected under the Equality Act.
The case reported this week arose when GMB member Keith Henderson led a picket line outside parliament on the day of prime minister’s questions. He then wrote an article that appeared in two national newspapers asking Labour MPs not to cross the picket line and to stand in solidarity with union members in their action against public sector pension cuts.
It was said that Mr Henderson’s actions led to Mr Miliband being embarrassed after the Labour leader was mocked by David Cameron at prime minister’s question time. Mr Miliband’s office phoned Paul Kenny, the GMB general secretary, to convey the Labour leader’s “displeasure”.
According to the Times, Mr Henderson told an employment tribunal that he received a phone call from Mr Kenny soon after: “He phoned me and shouted at me, saying that the article I had written about the picket line was ‘too leftwing’.” It was said that Mr Miliband’s office phoned Paul Kenny because David Cameron had asked Mr Milliband whether he had to get permission from the GMB to come into work that morning. Ed Miliband apparently thought it was embarrassing for the Labour party. “That was the start of the discrimination I received from the union,” Mr Henderson claimed.
Mr Henderson was dismissed from the union after a long-running dispute with his superiors. The report that led to his dismissal was compiled by Warren Kenny, son of the GMB chief and a senior organiser at the union.
Mr Henderson lost his claim for unfair dismissal and unjustified discipline by the union. However, the tribunal judge found that he had been discriminated against because of his left-wing beliefs and that “left-wing democratic socialism is a philosophical belief for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010″.
The GMB, which has 650,000 members and donates around £150,000 to the Labour party each year. The union is appealing against the discrimination ruling and there was a hearing this week.
In a 2005 case concerning a BNP member, a tribunal found that British nationalism did not involve a clear belief system or a profound belief affecting the way of life or view of the world. In another case in 2008 a tribunal found that the claimant’s Marxist/Trotskyist beliefs were not protected as they were too extreme and not “worthy of respect in a democratic” society. However, in Mr Henderson’s case the tribunal found Mr Henderson’s democratic socialist beliefs should be protected.