“I want to be paid for what I’ve done, I want justice. I’ve done my job, I should be paid,” Jean Philippe insisted to Judge Jane Porter at the Edinburgh Employment Tribunal on 11 December. He is claiming £468 in unpaid wages owed to him by Leeds-based firm Tradebase.
But on 17 December Judge Porter dismissed Jean Philippe’s claim, ruling that as an Agency worker Jean Philippe was not covered by the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Jean Philippe and Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty have vowed to continue the battle against this “disgraceful decision”, which highlights the general denial of rights to Agency workers.
“We are applying for a review of the decision, and failing that will appeal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal, “ said Robert Duncan of ECAP. “We have already organised a protest at an earlier Tribunal hearing, and may well need to take stronger action to win this fight for justice.”
Jean Philippe was employed by construction industry agency Tradebase to work at the Rutland Hotel in Edinburgh. He worked for 37 hours from 2nd – 5th July 2008 for the Sheffield firm SW Interiors, which should have earned him £468.
Ever since then, Leeds-based Tradebase have been seeking to avoid paying these wages due. Following four Tribunal hearings, on 17 December 2009 Judge Jane M Porter issued a verdict dismissing Jean Philippe’s claim – despite the fact that all parties – even Tradebase – agree he carried out the work.
The Employment Tribunal originally, on 2 December 2008, found in favour of Jean Philippe, after Tradebase failed to turn up at the hearing. But then Tradebase asked for, and were granted a review, the Tribunal accepting their far-fetched claim that the correspondence about the case had not reached them.
At a hearing on 7 July 2009, Mrs Graham, who along with Mr Graham is the owner of Tradebase, agreed that Jean Philippe had carried out the work and was due wages, and agreed to contact SW Interiors to confirm the number of hours Jean Philippe had worked. She agreed that she would then pay wages for the number of hours verified by SW Interiors.
THE BOSS LIES
But Tradebase and Mrs Graham went back on their word. They employed a firm called Milton and Co, Accounting and Legal Services, to try and avoid payment on a legal technicality, claiming that the Employment Tribunal has no power to rule on the case, alleging that Jean Philippe was not employed by Tradebase but was a self-employed sub-contractor.
Despite this claim being entered at a very late stage, and not being mentioned at earlier hearings, Judge Porter ignored Jean Philippe’s objections and allowed its submission. Despite overwhelming evidence that the reality of the situation is that Jean Philippe was employed by Tradebase, Porter has followed many Judges in making a ruling which denies Agency workers rights.
There are currently between half a million and one and a half million agency workers in the UK, and probably over 17,000 agencies. As a result of judge-made law and absence of statutory protection, agency workers are denied access to important employment rights. An EU Directive, the Agency Workers Directive, has been blocked by the British government since 2002, in the interests of “labour market flexibility”, that is more power to bosses and less rights for workers.
“We need to use the law where we can, but overall it’s so biased in favour of the employers that the most important thing is workers organising together to enforce our rights, “said Robert Duncan of ECAP. “That’s why we work together with the active local Edinburgh Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, to try and stop this kind of rip-off.”
A legal argument can be advanced that agency workers have the rights granted by the Employment Rights Act 1996, this has been upheld by some judges but dismissed by others. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_agency_worker_law especially the section on common law.
Report and photos on protest at September 2009 Employment Tribunal hearing
Industrial Workers of the World
Article on Agency workers: