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Supreme Court rules in favour of care worker victimised for taking strike action

A CARE worker victimised at work for taking strike action has humiliated the government in the Supreme Court today.

In a case brought by public-sector union Unison, Britain’s highest court ordered the government to outlaw the victimisation of workers for striking as part of a landmark ruling today.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said the case was the “most important industrial action case for decades” while the TUC hailed it as “monumental.”

The judgement is a slap in the face for former business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who had ordered an appeal against a previous court decision upholding the worker’s claim.

It is also a victory for millions of workers who will be protected from victimisation by vengeful bosses if they take strike action in the future.

Care worker and union rep Fiona Mercer was employed by care provider and charity AFG in the north-west of England.

She took part in a lawful strike in 2019 against pay cuts for care workers who did sleep-in shifts at the homes of people receiving care.

Her employer suspended her and barred her from going into work or contacting colleagues. 

With Unison’s backing she took her case to an employment tribunal, which initially ruled against her at a hearing in 2020.

She appealed to the employment appeal tribunal which found in her favour in 2021.

The case could have ended there as the employer did not want to proceed further, but Mr Kwarteng took the case to the Court of Appeal, which found against her.

On behalf of Ms Mercer, Unison appealed to the UK Supreme Court which sat in December last year.

It ruled in her favour today.

Five justices decided unanimously that UK law must be brought in line with the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects workers from all kinds of retribution for 
taking strike action — not just dismissal.

Ms Mercer said: “I’m delighted at today’s outcome.

“Although it won’t change the way I was treated, it means irresponsible employers will now think twice before behaving badly towards their unhappy staff.

“If they single strikers out for ill-treatment, they’ll now be breaking the law.”

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “This is a monumental victory for Unison and the whole union movement.

“And it represents yet another crushing legal defeat for the Conservative government’s oppressive strike laws.

“Judges have been clear as day. UK law fails to protect workers from bad bosses who punish staff for exercising their right to strike. It breaches international law.

“This government is racking up embarrassing legal defeats over its attacks on the right to strike, after the High Court recently ruled its strike-breaking agency worker regulations were illegal.

“This is a badge of shame for the Conservatives. They are on the side of bad bosses — not working people.

“The UK has become an international outlier on strike laws on the Tories’ watch.

“This judgement sends a signal to the Conservatives and rogue employers up and down the country. 

“Workers have a fundamental right to strike to defend their pay and conditions and should not be punished for exercising it.

“It’s time to protect the right to strike, close this legal loophole and repeal the Conservatives’ anti-strike laws.”

The court judgement said: “If employees can only take strike action by exposing themselves to detrimental treatment, the right dissolves.”

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