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Let down by Union Official

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by wooseywoo, May 3, 2012.

  1. In a nutshell, following problems at work last term and a head who was desperate to get rid of me (because I stood up to his incompetence - usual story), I received an unsolicited call from my union official offering me a sum of money to leave. I immediately rejected the offer to which he replied "I thought you'd say that, so I've been authorised to go up to X". I was so appalled that he hadn't offered me the higher sum to start with I put the phone down and immediately instructed solicitors at my own expense. Staff at the school have very little faith in this particular official because he is very "chummy" with the head and don't feel that he's 'on our side'. In fact, the staff union rep has now requested a new official to represent them for this reason.

    Anyway, my lawyers did a great job but whilst we were negotiating, my lawyer asked me to get the rep to confirm the conversation with the head. I called him and he flatly refused, saying he couldn't understand why I would want to use an "off the record/without prejudice" comment.

    Now, I'm under no illusion that Unions, like lightening, will always take the easiest route but I'm really not happy about this guy's conduct. I have a legal bill of several thousand (which I don't begrudge paying for one moment as the service was superb) but nonetheless, I have been let down!

    Naturally, I'll be seeking to reclaim some or all of my costs from the union but are there any precedents along these lines that people are aware of?
     
  2. In a nutshell, following problems at work last term and a head who was desperate to get rid of me (because I stood up to his incompetence - usual story), I received an unsolicited call from my union official offering me a sum of money to leave. I immediately rejected the offer to which he replied "I thought you'd say that, so I've been authorised to go up to X". I was so appalled that he hadn't offered me the higher sum to start with I put the phone down and immediately instructed solicitors at my own expense. Staff at the school have very little faith in this particular official because he is very "chummy" with the head and don't feel that he's 'on our side'. In fact, the staff union rep has now requested a new official to represent them for this reason.

    Anyway, my lawyers did a great job but whilst we were negotiating, my lawyer asked me to get the rep to confirm the conversation with the head. I called him and he flatly refused, saying he couldn't understand why I would want to use an "off the record/without prejudice" comment.

    Now, I'm under no illusion that Unions, like lightening, will always take the easiest route but I'm really not happy about this guy's conduct. I have a legal bill of several thousand (which I don't begrudge paying for one moment as the service was superb) but nonetheless, I have been let down!

    Naturally, I'll be seeking to reclaim some or all of my costs from the union but are there any precedents along these lines that people are aware of?
     
  3. DaisysLot

    DaisysLot Senior commenter

    What did the solicitor you employed at your expense achieve for you in terms of exit payment and 'deal'?
     
  4. A substantial sum of money and watertight agreement - you could have driven a coach and horses through the one the union official was prepared to let me sign.
     
  5. Thanks for sharing this. That is very interesting and disgraceful conduct by the union official. You have been treated very badly when you were entitled to proper support: support you've paid for.
    At first glance, it looks like the union is in breach of its contract to you.
    I suspect the double dealing of some union officials is not that unusual, although probably less explicit than your experience and probably more likely to involve the school rep and HT.
    I recall a case of somebody bringing action against their union for their failure to act. I may be thinking of Weaver v NATFHE, the judgement of which seemed to allow unions to refuse to act for victims of discrimination when the accused was a member of the same union. Not the same as your complaint
    Could I ask 4 questions related to your case:
    1) Would you please name the union? There is no reason that they should be protected. Would I be right in suspecting the NUT?
    2) Roughly how much was the legal bill? Many people on this forum seem inhibited from taking independent legal advice. It would be good to get an estimate from somebody that pursued the case to a successful end.
    3) Did you not have legal protection under your household insurance?
    4) Did the negotiated outcome allow you to obtain another teaching job?
    Thanks.

     
  6. Hi there,

    Answers are:

    1. ATL
    2. I have yet to receive the final bill but I'm expecting £2,000
    3. Possibly but I didn't have time to faff about with insurance companies - this sounds a bit ridiculous but at the time it just needed to be sorted and I knew that the case was so strong that the school didn't have a leg to stand on. I was fortunate to have one of my oldest friends who is a lawyer (although not employment) look over the case to confirm it's strength.
    4. Yes - I was offered one on Monday to start in September - which has really irritated my old head! :)

    Edited to say, Sorry about the formatting - not quite sure why it doesn't recognise line returns?
     
  7. Gardening Leaves

    Gardening Leaves New commenter

    Take care over what you have written here, wooseywoo. There is enough to identify you and if you left with a CA, I assume it includes provision for you not to make detrimental comments about your former employer. There is likely to be enough on this thread to cause you problems. Just sayin'... it pays to be paranoid [​IMG]
    The teacher who sued her union (NUT) for lack of support (and won) was called Joanne Sherry and she was based in Carlisle. You can read about her case (and the issue of union support for members) here:
    http://www.employees.org.uk/union-failure.html
     
  8. Thanks! Point taken! Will read that link with interest.
     
  9. Thanks for sharing that. The legal bill sounds like money well spent to get justice, esp when lawyers can charge more than £350 +VAT per hour.
    I think you have done very well. You stood up to the appalling treatment of a vindictive HT and what sounds like duplicitious conduct by a union official.I hope you make a complaint about the union and seek redress.
    I'm pleased to hear (but not surprised) that the previous head feels frustrated that you have successfully moved on.
    I wouldn't worry about the remote possibility of being identified. There are so many CA being agreed all the time in teaching that you are just one of thousands.Look at the number of people invovled here.
    Besides, it is not as if you have said anything that could cause any offence to anyone, so no reason to be concerned.
    It is about time people spoke out and challenged such behaviour. Congratualtions to you again and thanks for sharing.


     
  10. Gardening Leaves

    Gardening Leaves New commenter

    With respect, your advice to ignore gagging terms in a CA is dangerously reckless. Such terms are legally biending, which is why those eentering into such an agreement must receive independent legal advice. Though the chances are low, anyone following your advice risks being taken to court for breach of contract and having to pay back the settlement plus the employer's extensive costs.

    Your support for victims of bullying is admirable and welcome. Howevery, if you post advice here, where people are often traumatised and vulnerable, you have a moral duty to do your best to ensure it is accurate. The maxim of first aid is "First, do no harm".
     
  11. Thanks for that. Credit where credit is due, it was the advice on the website www.workbully.org that empowered me to stand up for myself. It was when I read the definitions of bullying on there and how it was actually 'harassment' that I realised that the law actually had some 'teeth'. My case was extreme (I suspect) and following Gardening Leaves' wise advice, I'll say no more other than to say, the unions really were (in my case) part of the problem rather than the solution but that said, you really don't have to put up with it. As an aside, if anyone ever needs an AMAZING employment lawyer who worked tirelessly and took my calls at weekends and evenings just let me know!
     
  12. With respect, you are wrong.You should know that compromise agreements do not necessarily and automatically contain absolute and universal gagging clauses that "cover everything" that happened to a wronged teacher at the school or prohibit the wronged teacher from ever saying a bad word about their previous (unamed) school, regardless of the merits of the comments.
    No. Confidentiality clauses will usually relate to the precise terms of the settlement package, invariably the financial deal. There is no reason why the wronged teacher should allow themselves to be gagged further and silenced on everything that happened. The school may not accept the allegations of wrong doing, but that is another matter.
    To imply as you do that that teachers should remain "gagged" on everything is inaccurate and risks perpetuating the sense of injustice that many wronged teacher have. The teacher need not agree to be silenced on everything and should not.

    All elelemts of a CA have to be negotiated and agreed, so why suggest (as you do) that a teacher be
    expected to be universally gagged, esp when the school allows itself the
    right to supply a derogatory reference? I for one would never sign a CA
    that contained such a universal
    "gagging" clause, esp if I had evidence of wrong doing by the school
    If the school wishes to have wide-ranging confidentiality clauses, then they should be prepared to pay a high price. I am assuming that, like me, you have not seen the opening poster's CA, so will not be
    familiar with the wording of the confidentiality clauses, if any.
    With respect, I'm concerned that advice you gave in your posting risks weakening the position of wronged teachers further. For example, why should a teacher harassed out of a post be content to be universally "gagged" about their experience at the school whereas the school remains at liberty to supply its damaging reference on the teacher? This is clearly one-sided and should be challenged and not accepted as a normal part of a CA.
    One novel way of bring about equality between the parties, would be for wronged teacher's to include agreed references on the school's conduct as part of the CA. That reference on the school's conduct would then be used publicly and would be comparable to the (all too often) damaging reference that schools supply for its wronged ex-teachers.
    I think it is important not to encourage wronged teachers to accept universally gagging clauses while leaving them to handle derogatory references.
    On your last point about supporting people on this forum, I thank you for your compliments and also welcome your comments. I follow with interest the progress of your long standing claim
    against your previous school and wish you luck in that matter. Presumably you didn;t have a CA.
    I also thank you for your
    advice on how to give first aid. I should point out, however, that while it is
    reassuring advice it is unnecessary. I think we can both agree that the
    opening poster made it very clear that after they had gone to work on
    them, it was the school and the union official that were in need of
    "first aid"! Not the poster.
    The poster has shown gutsy resilience and succeeded. A
    lesson to us all I'm sure and it is by sharing her experience that other injustices can be redressed.I think we can agree on that.
     
  13. Gardening Leaves

    Gardening Leaves New commenter

    What an extraordinarily offensive, aggressive and ignorant post! Whilst you are, of course, entitled to give an opinion on a free forum, not for the first time, information you have posted is factually inaccurate and could exaccerbate problems for those choosing to follow it.
    As the children at my former school would have said, you know "Jack".
    This is the one and only occasion on which I am going to respond directly to anything you have posted.
     
  14. Just a brief update, I received the final legal bill today and it was just a little over £2,000 inc VAT - which was a lot better than I had expected. It's a lot of money but not a 'fortune' and was, IMHO money very well spent. I guess what I'm saying is that if anyone is living through hell, and the unions are not being helpful, you don't necessarily have to sell a kidney to fund the action. Certainly my school capitulated very quickly in the face of the evidence (I had, as per all the advice, gathered contemporaneous evidence). The caveat here, of course, is that if it ends up in court then I guess you can end up in 'life savings territory'!! Anyway, I'll let you know how I get on with the Union. As an aside, can someone please tell me how to do new paragraphs on here?!?!?
     
  15. Gardening Leaves

    Gardening Leaves New commenter

    Those are very fair costs for the amount of work, especially since your lawyer was prepared to be available to you out of hours. I am glad everything has worked out so well for you, but it's another example of the disparity between what good employment lawyers can achieve and what teaching unions usually offer. Teachers pay union subs for legal support, generally speaking. They assume it will work for them, should they ever need it, only to discover with a shock that the quality of service is a lottery.
    Paragraphs work for me using Windows, but not when I post from my smartphone. I don't understand it either!
     
  16. jellycowfish

    jellycowfish New commenter

    Would just like to back up GL - as part of the terms of my compromise agreement, I am completely 'gagged' from saying anything about what happened leading up to and terms of my CA. Terms equally apply to the 'other side'.
     
  17. jellycowfish

    jellycowfish New commenter

    Sorry, wouldn't let me edit.
    My union rep explained that the gagging terms were always applied. Which school is going to pay you a large lump sum, then allow you to <strike>blow the whistle</strike> gossip about their methods? Not many, I would think.
     
  18. I would caution anyone reading these postings to be vary careful and to seek professional advice where appropriate: there is much that is aired on here that is just plain wrong, and while probably well-intentioned, could well prejudice anyone taking such advice as gospel. Then again there is much that is sensible advice backed up by considerable experience. Caveat emptor folks!
     
  19. The only inaccuracy on this thread is the misconception put forward by a regualr poster that wronged teachers must automatically accept absolute gagging clauses as part of a compromise agreement. That presumption is wrong.
    As I have said, confideniality clauses like anything else in a compromise agreement need to be agreed and and like all compromise agreements the teacher must take legal advice.
    Of course the HT will try to insist on an absolute gagging clause, esp if the wronged teacher has damming evidence. But the wish by the HT doesn't mean that the wronged teacher must or should necessarily grant that wish. The scope of any confidentility clauses must be agreed. Is anyone really surprised if the unions negotiate some weak CAs?
    I'd rather see the legal authority contradicting my point, than intemperate huffing and puffing, but I'm happy to ignore that nonsence and focus on the issue, which is this.
    Wronged teachers do not have to accept absolute gagging orders as part of a compromise agreement. To argue that they do simply perpetuates the scourge of harassment in the profession and allows bullies to continue their bullying unchecked.

     
  20. Torey

    Torey Occasional commenter

    Did you have a gagging clause then on your CA? I think any head who didn't would be stupid.I never took one and the only thing I can't do is tell anyone how much money they had to pay me.
     

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