Union pipe fitter wins against bogus self-employment firm in the UK

Pipe fitter Russ Blakely will finally receive compensation for unfair salary deductions.

The British union Unite has won an important legal victory against a so called “umbrella employment” company that exploit workers through bogus self-employment.

The pipe fitter Russ Blakely has now received a settlement of £2,500 for unfair salary deductions and holiday from the employment agency On-Site Recruitment Solutions Ltd.

“Following a two year battle Mr Blakely has finally received the compensation he deserved,” said Unite’s assistant general secretary Howard Beckett.

When in March 2016 Russ Blakely was asked to ‘sign a contract of services’ he was informed he was neither an employee nor a worker but was self-employed. This meant that he was not entitled to even basic employment rights including holiday pay. Mr Blakely refused to sign the contract and when he took holiday in May 2016 he was not asked to return.

With the support of Unite he took an employment tribunal case for unfair deduction of wages and unpaid holiday pay. The case was initially heard at the Reading employment tribunal which, wrongly ruled against Mr Blakely in the mistaken belief he was self-employed.

With the support of Unite the case was appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), which heard the case in December 2017.

The EAT found in favour of Mr Blakely and made several decisions which create legal precedents and will be used in future employment tribunals, including that he was a worker and that there was a contract between him and the employment agency.

“Unite will now be ensuring that the decisions contained within this case will be applied to other similar cases,” Howard Beckett from Unite.

The case was referred back to the employment tribunal to decide on the level of Mr Blakely’s award but On Site settled in full shortly before the case was heard.

“This case absolutely underlines why workers need to be a member of a trade union. A worker without free legal support would have been totally denied employment justice in such a complicated case,” said Howard Beckett.