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Compromise agreement URGENT help needed

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by wooseywoo, Mar 30, 2012.

  1. Dear all,

    Please can someone help me?

    Long story but following problems at work I have ended up almost agreeing to a compromise agreement. My union official has been 'ok' but not brilliant. I've had to do much of the work myself and hasn't really been proactive in getting the agreement finalised (goes days without returning calls & emails). My school governors who are a 'tricky bunch' have come up with an agreement which my union official had agreed to. Something about the agreement didn't sound right and I thought it prudent to contact a well respected local law firm (through a friend who is a lawyer (not employment but was worried by the agreement as well) who looked at it) and ask for a second opinion (and pay for it out of my own pocket) just to be sure. The employment lawyers were horrified that I was being advised to sign the agreement as it gave me virtually no protection. I agreed to pay them (not a huge sum to be fair) to re-draft the agreement to make it more water-tight.

    My union official has now gone utterly ballistic saying that I'm to withdraw the lawyers advice or he can no longer represent me. He won't even listen to the concerns raised by the law firm saying that I've 'scuppered' the deal.

    I'm in the position thinking who do I trust the lawyers or the Union?

    God, what a muddle!
     
  2. did your union not give you legal advice? Also did they not tell you that if you instruct your own solicitor they can no longer represent you? Did you not read it all before agreeing anything? As far as I can see you have to make a decision about who will best represent you now
     
  3. Hi there sadandconfused. Haven't agreed anything yet (we're in the final stages). The union didn't tell me that I couldn't seek legal advice but to be honest they haven't really told me much which was why upon reading the agreement I became worried that all the protection was given to the employers but none to me (which it turns out was justified). My worry is that they (the union) are suggesting that I sign this agreement that 2 other lawyers have (independently) said don't sign. I'm so desperate to get out, I'd do anything (I've been bullied mercilessly and have no confidence or fight left) to get out of this hell but equally I can't risk losing everything. My point is simply that there ARE concerns about the agreement but what chance do I have if my union rep will not listen to them? He has said that I have to decide 'them or me' tonight, hence the urgency.
     
  4. You have paid for legal advice now, so I would go with that. Ask the union to explain why their advice is so different and gave you such cause for concern.
    Union legal advice is not the same as independent firms because they work in dialogue with the school and are less client orientated. The overview of their ongoing relationship with the school can inform their position. The overall concern is for union members, not individual members and their negotiating powers are sustained within that context.
    Continue with your union and keep in good relations with them. You are not wrong. I was offered a compromise agreement by the union and it was terrible- very glad I didn't take it. Ask for the watertight agreement I'd say.
    I hope you get an opinion from other posters as well.
     
  5. This is how my union work and I assume they all operate on similar lines. When the union is involved IF it goes to their legal team THEN you sign an agreement to say that you will not seek other legal advice etc and that if you do they will no longer support you and you may be liable for their costs. The agreement has a number of clauses and to make doubly sure you understand they copy your signed agreement and send it back to you with a letter to check you understand.
    If you haven't made an agreement such as this with the union then I would have thought they were on a sticky wicket. You could say that you will stay with the union but you won't sign the compromise agreement you have been offered as it stands. It's either that or bite the bullet and pay a lawyer to rewrite the agreement and pay them from the proceeds of the agreement if necessary. In the end a compromise agreement is just that, a compromise all it really does is release you from your contract quickly.
     
  6. baitranger

    baitranger Occasional commenter

    I'm quite surprised by this as, many years ago, when I negotiated a compromise agreement, the school insisted that I get independent legal advice from a solicitor of my choice and agreed upfront to pay for the legal advice.
    I would investigate making a claim against your union for negligence.
     
  7. rosievoice

    rosievoice Star commenter

    My union were inert and useless when I needed them most. I ended up engaging the services of an employment lawyer in order to arrange a dignified and safe departure from my school.
    The solicitor told me she found the reps of the teaching unions to be the most unhelpful and uncooperative of all professional bodies. Don't know why.
    I would suggest that a specialist solicitor would be of more use to you in your hour of need than your union's feeble efforts.
     
  8. It does make me question the point of being with a union at all. Mine were useless as well and mine was such an easy case, coupled with the fact that several other members of staff are being bullied by the Head as well.
    I hate wasting money!
     
  9. TheHappyArnold

    TheHappyArnold New commenter

    My union were happy to sort out my agreement but told me they wouldn't be able to turn it around quickly enough for my tight schedule. The agreement had already been written by HR and the union told me the sort of things I should make sure were included. They told me that it was perfectly acceptable for me to use my own solicitor and put a clause in the agreement saying that my legal fees would be paid for me. Everything worked out fine, the amendments were accepted and the agreement signed.
     
  10. I'm honestly just amazed at how lacklustre the union's performance has been (and that's putting it politely!!) It's all very well jumping up and down shouting "strike" (which let's be honest is easy, free publicity for them) but when it comes to protecting INDIVIDUAL members there seems to be a lack of 'something' (manpower/care/effort/I don't know what).

    Anyway, yet another weekend when nothing will happen that I will spend worrying myself stupid. Surely there's a better way?
     
  11. Torey

    Torey Occasional commenter

    I'd take the advice of the employment solicitor. Just join a different union. They wouldn't be able to help you with this situation but from the sounds of it you are about to leave that situation anyway. Contact headquarters and explain the situation and remind them that the NUT have already been taken to court to have subs returned. Tell them if they won't give you appropriate advice you will be using the solicitor to do the same.
     
  12. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Lead commenter Forum guide

    It is still a legal requirement [under the Employment Rights (Dispute Resolution) Act 1998] that an employee gets independent legal advice before they sign a CA, and the independent adviser has to sign a Certificate to confirm they have given the advice. Normally the advice is from an independent solicitor chosen by the employee but it can be from a qualified union official (who has to be an individual who holds an appropriate certification/indemnity insurance).
    Unless that independent advice has been received and the certificate issued the CA is invalid so the employer will insist on seeing the certificate of independent advice before completing the CA.
    When I had a CA my employer paid for the cost of me getting the independent advice and certificate, in addition to the CA amount - it was around £250 - £300 + VAT as I recall. I imagine that's usually what happens.

     
  13. Do not rely on the union's advice. They may be overworked, just looking for a quick resolution, or just incompetent Looking at their reaction to your concerns, it sounds like they are all 3.
    If the commercial lawyer's redrafting makes sense then go wiht that. Also check closely the agreed reference and the amount of compensation offered. If you have evidence of harassment you can resign without a compromise agreement and initate legal proceedings after. They will want to settle then. But from what you say, I would have little faith in the union. If you want a 3rd dose of (free) legal advice (and I;ve mentioned this several times), use your legal protection option on your home insurance (if you have it) and get free immediate employment advice.
    But remember: a bit more resolve now, could save you alot of grief later.
    Good luck.
     
  14. Well, the decision has been made. I just emailed my Union official to give him some info and I got an Out of Office reply stating that he will be on annual leave until THE THIRD WEEK IN APRIL. He didn't tell me this and we are meant to be signing this agreement on Monday!!!

    I have now handed it over to my lawyer and I intend to make a formal complaint to the union in question and ask for a refund of my subs as well as a contribution to my legal bill. WHAT a bl**dy joke!!! I think I'm more angry with my union than I am with my employers!
     
  15. Have sent you a message.
     
  16. I'm not surprised by that action of the union.
    But my advice is put the complaint against the union on hold for now and deal with the more serious business which is the negotiated compromise agreement.
    You will have time to deal wiht the union. Then on the basis of an improved agreement (hopefully), you will be in a better position to demonstrate to the union HQ what rubbish service they provided. But don't give your union reason to undermine your own moves at such a sensitve stage re the CA.
    Keep your powder dry and focus on the first villan.
    And keep a close eye on the legal costs. Insist on caps.But it shouldn;t cost too much for them to redraft the CA.
     
  17. Thanks to all. Legal bill is currently £750 + VAT and rising. I have emailed the union official telling him that I expect the union to pay. Yesterday he said he was ready to email me the CA to sign. I then emailed him the version that my solicitor has re-written (which shows what a total mess it was) today he emails me and said he hadn't, in fact, got it checked out legally yet anyway! Go figure?!?!

    Either way, my union (whilst were good, it must be said, at negotiating the deal) have let me down seriously in the detail. Is this usual with unions or just my bad luck?
     
  18. Gardening Leaves

    Gardening Leaves New commenter

    Sadly experience has shown its a typical response. A CA is not legal unless you have had independent legal advice. Your employer should pay your bill.
     
  19. When you say typical response, do you mean the union advice being substandard? Employer has offered £250 but the CA they drew up was so bad (my solicitor thinks they downloaded it from the internet or was one used previously) the bill to 'put it right' is likely to be much higher.
     
  20. Two things come to mind - having had a hand for many years in helping members get Compromise Agreements. The first is that when members in my county signed a casework form,right at the outset, there was always a clause that stated that if a member sought independent legal advice the union could remove their support. The rationale for this is actually quite straight forward - it could be very difficult in practice if a member was getting conflicting advice from two or more sources. However, most compromise agreements usually contain a sum (often about £250- 300) that covers getting legal advice - because it is a legally binding agreement. Many union members who are happy with what their union has negotiated waive that. But it is an option. >p>These agreements are normally fairly standard - and when you have agreed the lump sum, it would be rare for a CA to depart from what are fairly standard clauses - an average union official probably does 10-20 of these in a year, and most would have fairly standard wording. For that reason it should be a simple matter to ask for someone at regional or HQ to take over in the case of a protracted absence from a union official.
     

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