Scotland’s trade union body has lost the latest round in a long-running legal battle with a former worker who was unfairly sacked and victimised by the organisation.
Zaffir Hakim was made redundant after he complained about race discrimination and went on to receive almost £17,000 at an employment tribunal.
The lengthy dispute, which included an STUC appeal against the decision, has seen the body criticised for trying to diminish workers’ rights, while its former general secretary was branded “not credible” by judges.
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At the time of the final decision in 2019, Mr Hakim’s payout was massively reduced from almost £82,000 to £17,000 due to a number of factors, including how hard he had searched for other work.
However, he has now successfully appealed that decision in a move that could see the sum awarded to him increase by tens of thousands of pounds.
Mr Hakim said he was “very pleased” with the outcome of the appeal.
“This has been a long time coming,” he said. “When I received the initial decision I was very disappointed with the deductions that were made, especially after years of fighting my case.
“I felt like the blame was being placed on me, when it was the STUC who had put me in this position.
“Obviously, it remains to be seen what the final outcome will be, but I’m hopeful my award will go back to close to what it was originally.
“I feel like after years of fighting this, I’ve finally been vindicated.”
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Mr Hakim worked with the STUC’s anti-racism project One Workplace Equal Rights (OWER).
During his time there, he raised a complaint about racial discrimination which was later dropped.
Despite his decision not to press ahead with the complaint, the tribunal heard that tensions erupted within the OWER team because of it and there were fears it could have jeopardised funding bids.
Grahame Smith, former STUC General Secretary, was criticised by the tribunal.
The relationship between Mr Hakim and the STUC’s then general secretary Grahame Smith was said to have “soured” as a result of the issue and when funding for the worker’s post came to an end, he was made redundant despite other options being available.
Employment judge Claire McManus found that he was let go by bosses because of the previous complaint.
She recommended that the STUC review its redundancy process after criticising officials for failing to follow the correct procedures by not considering him for other vacancies, as well as failing to hold proper meetings or keep notes.
She also described Mr Smith’s evidence in the case as “not credible” on a number of points – including his description of how he made the redundancy decision.
When the STUC tried to appeal her judgment, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Scotland stepped in to defend Mr Hakim because they felt it was an important legal point which could have made it more difficult for other workers to raise victimisation claims.
At the time, an EHRC Scotland spokesperson said: “Had the STUC’s appeal been successful this would have made it harder for workers to challenge victimisation by employers.”
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The recent judgment from the Employment Appeal Tribunal quashed the original decision to reduce Mr Hakim’s payout by 30% for failing to effectively mitigate his losses.
Lord Summers also found that the decision to reduce it by a further 70% thereafter should also be reconsidered by the employment tribunal, along with his pension entitlement.
A further judgment on the final amount awarded to Mr Hakin will be issued in due course.
Current STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer said: “We note the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal which relates to technical issues in the calculation of the award to Mr Hakim. This matter will now be remitted to the original Employment Tribunal to reassess the award.”