September 24th: Unite Regional Officer, Philip Oakes, welcomed the decision of the Tribunal which found that Dunnes stores had breached the legislation twice:
“Unite Legal Services took this case on behalf of a Dunnes Store worker who had been denied union representation at a disciplinary hearing. The employer subsequently admitted a breach of the legislation but argued that the Tribunal should only make a token award on the grounds that they had acted to rectify the situation by re-running the disciplinary process with union representation allowed.
“Our legal counsel argued that this made no substantive difference and that the worker had been subjected to detrimental treatment by the employer in ignoring her legal right to be accompanied by a union representative.
“In addition to refusing Unite representation at the original disciplinary hearing, Dunnes Stores issued the worker with a letter stating that she could only take along a fellow employee to the subsequent appeal, despite her insistence that she be accompanied by a union representative. In the event, the appeal never took place as the process was aborted by Dunnes management.
“The Tribunal agreed with our case and our argument that there had been two breaches – an actual breach in not allowing her to be represented at the original disciplinary hearing and a second breach by issuing a letter ‘threatening’ the same approach in a future appeal.
“Unite welcomes the award made by the Tribunal and thanks their staff for their time and involvement. We also want to thank our Legal Services team and the solicitors acting on our behalf, Thompsons NI. This decision has upheld the rights of a worker to union representation and once again demonstrates the importance of union membership for workers faced by employers intent on undermining protections”, Mr Oakes concluded.