Every year trade unions obtain millions of pounds for their members. Both large and small unions have an impressive record.
Unlike the ‘no win no fee’ compensation claims firms that advertise on television, trade union legal services are absolutely free to members, win, lose or draw. These services are also free to the friends and family of union members who suffer injury away from work. Because unions are not for profit organisations they do not impose hidden charges. Chelmsford TUC hears of individuals who have been injured through no fault of their own, who have been charged more by a claims firm than the compensation they received for their injury.
Trade union legal services have been responsible for many of the groundbreaking test cases that have established people’s rights at work. These have included both employment rights - where unions back cases to the House of Lords and the European Court of Justice - and in relation to workplace injuries and disease.
The right to claim compensation for asbestos related disease, for example, was established through test cases fought by trade union lawyers. That fight continues today, with unions squaring up to the insurance industry to protect the right of individuals with pleural plaques to claim compensation.
Unions instruct law firms on behalf of their members, who are the experts in personal injury and trade union and employment law. Together they have taken cases which:
established legal liability in the field of asbestos
won the first compensation for asbestos related disease for bystanders led to the national deafness scheme and helped change IIB awards for deaf workers
established claims for bladder cancer in the 1960’s
led the courts to recognise occupational asthma
won the first workplace stress caused by working practices case
brought the first successful passive smoking case
established the principle that those who suffer the often crippling upper limb disorders due to the repetitive nature of their work and inadequate/unsuitable equipment should be compensated
won compensation for nurses suffering latex allergies
pursued employers responsible for the deaths of workers due to unsafe working practices
established the right of workers to take proper rest breaks (Holland and Ors V Heathrow Express).
Representation for members injured at or away from work
Representation for members injured in road traffic accidents
Representation for members who develop a work-related industrial disease
Representation to family members injured away from work Employment rights
Free legal advice on non-work related matters, including family law, consumer law, financial issues.
Free wills and low cost conveyancing.
The following are some of the legal practices that are used by trade unions. However, a trade union member will be referred through the union’s legal service to a particular firm. For this purpose, most unions have a telephone helpline for members who have been injured at or away from work, or who need free legal advice on non-work related matters.
If a member has a problem at work and needs advice about employment rights, they must go through their trade union representative.
Labour Research also assists our Movement by engaging employment law specialists. They answer hundreds of queries every month from its affiliates, and publishes Industrial Relations Law Reports.