The below summary is taken from PCS Union’s report on the employment tribunal decision in Williams v DVSA in which the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency was found to have placed Paul Williams at a detriment because of his union activities. Unfortunately a copy of the tribunal judgement does not yet appear to be available.
Paul Williams – a member of the union’s NEC, won his case at the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) after a Nottingham ET concluded the employer had tried to stop him carrying out trade union duties.
Mr Williams, who has 38 years as a civil servant and a proud PCS member, refused to take voluntary redundancy following a re-organisation at the department.
He applied unsuccessfully for 28 positions which the ET judgement said: “It is surprising at the least that an employee at risk of redundancy with 38 years of experience in the civil service is not able to successfully apply for suitable alternative employment where there is nothing to suggest he is pursuing inappropriate alternative roles or was incompetent”
In 2019, having successfully secured a post in the finance team, his trial period was extended with no explanation. There was nothing in Paul’s performance to suggest this should have happened.
In October Paul was offered the finance role on a permanent basis but only if he agreed to reduce his facility time from 50% to 20%, when this issue had never been raised before.
The ET found: “There is no evidence that his facility time warranted the extension. There is no evidence his performance in the trial was causing some concern that meant a prolonged trial might reasonably be justified. The only obvious factor was his union role.”
During the following month, PCS and DVSA went into dispute and the union decided to ballot its members.
DVSA wrote to Mr Williams on 22 November 2019 to say that the DVSA was withdrawing the use of its facilities from PCS representatives with immediate effect. The ET found that this “demonstrated anti-union animus and in particular towards Mr Williams”.
Early in the new year, Paul applied for a job in HR Expert Services. He was invited to interview and at no stage was his trade union activities raised as a possible hindrance to him working in HR.
However, the head of HR at DVSA emailed Paul with an ultimatum prior to interview saying he would have to give up his trade union role if he wanted to proceed with his application.
The ET found that the Head of HR at DVSA, did not want Paul recruited to the post because of his trade union activities.
The ET was scathing about the Head of HR and DVSA’s evidence at the hearing, including claims made that he was an “enemy within.”
Paul took out grievances against DVSA and the employer was found by the ET to have had a “woeful failure” of procedure.
Rakesh Patel, of Thompsons Solicitors – who represented Mr Williams in his case – said: “For the Head of the Human Resources department to behave as they did, treating a long-standing trade union activist as, in the words of the ET, “the enemy within”, is more fitting for a Victorian factory than a workplace in the 21st century.
“The ET was scathing in its judgement and concluded that the reason that the Head of HR ‘did not want Mr Williams to be recruited to the post was because she did not want a person who held union roles like he did and undertook activities like he did in the post’. For there to be multiple examples of career advancement and job security being disrupted and blocked when Paul was simply effectively representing his members goes beyond hostility and is a clear intention to destabilise and remove the union from the workplace.
“Paul has dedicated his 38-year career to the civil service and what he has received in return has been a campaign by his employers to victimise him, subjecting him to job insecurity because of his union activities.
“Thompsons has, in 2021, been standing with the trade union movement for 100 years, exposing employers like the DVSA. I am proud that, as we have throughout our history, we were able to take Paul’s case and win.”
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the case demonstrated some of the most appalling anti-trade union practices he’d seen and thanked Paul for his dedication to the trade union movement.
He said: “DVSA’s treatment of Paul Williams – a long standing trade unionist with an excellent record- was an absolute disgrace and effectively an attack on every one of our members in the department.
“I am very glad the Employment Tribunal saw the reality of what the employer was trying to do, which was to discriminate against someone who has decades of proud service to the trade union movement.
“Trade unions exist in order to defend workers from unscrupulous employers, and it is imperative that every worker joins their appropriate union, whatever part of the workforce they are in.”
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So how far was his treatment the action of a rogue manager and how far did it reflect the attitude of this government towards someone pursuing legitimate trade union activities. Well done, Paul and well done, PCS.
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