The government is being pummelled in the courts, and it’s brilliant to watch

They've lost three high-profile cases in the High Court, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal in the last fortnight alone.

The government has suffered three humiliating legal defeats to the unions in the past fortnight alone – throwing their legitimacy yet further into question.

On Friday the High Court ruled that government cuts to civil service redundancy pay were illegal because unions had been excluded from the negotiations that brought in the cuts.

The court further ruled the government could not appeal the decision and must pay the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union’s court fees.

The decision comes just over a week after Unison won major victories in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal over employment tribunal fees and rules about workplace consulting.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said of Friday’s High Court ruling: “This is a great win for us and all civil servants, and another humiliating defeat for the government that treated its workforce with contempt by excluding us from talks.

“In trying to fix the terms of the negotiations the government only succeeded in showing itself to be weak, vulnerable and afraid of serious discussion. The judgement proves how important it is to belong to a trade union that is prepared to fight back.”

The Unison victory over tribunal fees two weeks ago was a groundbreaking step in unions and employees challenging the legal and constitutional basis of the government’s actions.

“The government has been acting unlawfully, and has been proved wrong – not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too.”

As Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, put it.

The other Unison victory saw the Court of Appeal ruling that employers must consult unions more often over working conditions, such as holiday pay and working hours.

“The message to bosses is they will have to treat their staff more fairly over pay and working conditions. If they fail to consult unions then they will be acting unlawfully and could be taken to court.”

As employment law expert Darren Newman wrote on Left Foot Forward two weeks ago, these victories have ramifications beyond employment law.

“A positive result for Unison will open a new chapter in the Court’s willingness to limit the powers of the executive”, Newman wrote the day before the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“[A victory] would assert the sovereignty of Parliament as expressed in Acts of Parliament as against the power of ministers to shape the law.”

The courts have dished out not one but three victories for the unions in the past two weeks, throwing into question the constitutional and legal basis of the government’s actions. The government is on the back foot, and it’s delicious to watch.

Oscar Webb is a reporter for Left Foot Forward. He tweets here.

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9 Responses to “The government is being pummelled in the courts, and it’s brilliant to watch”

  1. Shaun wade

    The courts are now a thorn in this governments side. Let’s hope and watch out for any reforms this Goverment tries to sneak in.

  2. David fuller

    The government is corrupt to the and getting worse

  3. Stella Beston

    Unions were formed for a reason, to protect workers rights ,they are needed now more than ever otherwise we are all being treated like serfs again ! This Government shpuld hang its head in shame/

  4. Jenny Kynes

    When is the next step going to be taken??? Who will hold them to account?? This makes a fool of the Justice system if there is no punishment for these CRIMES

  5. David L Atkinson

    The Tories deserve what they have received from the courts. Many claim to be Christians but have no concept of fairness or caring.

  6. Lawman

    If we do not apply the rule of law, we become a form of elected dictatorship.

    Well done trade unions for using the law and holding HMG to account.

  7. Susan Calvo

    Well, of course, good that we have these victories, but in the light of everything that is happening, really they are quite small, and may even be a kind of smokescreen by the Conservatives, who are excellent at such strategies…. they ‘give us’ some minor victories, all the while continuing with their much larger agendas. Such things as the privatisation of the NHS is a much larger, in fact HUGE issue, and if you haven’t seen this full length documentary, it is well worth a watch..You get good, basic, easily understandable info about the privatisation process, and also how the media had an ENORMOUS effect as well. So, even though about the NHS, it gives a good overview of how the Tories set their agendas in place, their smokescreens, and their privatisation plans started in 1980’s with the Thatcher government – lease watch this if you can – NHS Sell Off full length documentary video – abolition of NHS

  8. Patricia Ford

    Fantastic news & reading well done Unison, about time this government got its comupance

  9. Jay ginn

    I hope these trade union victories help to persuade non members that its important to join their appropriate union and restore levels of membership and activism. All for one and one for all.

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