TUC chief Brendan Barber defends tribunal system despite surge in court cases


TUC leader Brendan Barber has insisted the employment tribunal system is “sensible”, despite a massive rise in the number of claims reaching the courts.

The latest figures from the Employment Tribunal Service show that 115,000 cases (more than 200,000 claims) went to tribunal in 2005-06.

Last week, manufacturing employers’ body the EEF revealed the number of tribunals it had handled over the past year had risen by 25%. Peter Schofield, EEF director of employment and legal affairs, called on the government to “halt the rising tide of employment litigation”.

But Barber said the number of cases reaching tribunal should be higher. He told Personnel Today: “Are there only 120,000 or so experiences of workplace injustice in the UK each year? It is an astonishingly low number.”

Michael Gibbons, a member of the Better Regulation Commission, reported to the government in March that there should be greater use of mediation to reduce the number of tribunal cases.

Earlier this year, Mark Ellis, a solicitor at business consultancy Ellis Whittam, won massive support when he suggested that the unfair dismissal law should be scrapped. Almost half of the 450 HR professionals who responded to Personnel Today’s online barometer survey agreed.

But Barber said calls to scrap the law were “utterly unacceptable”. He added that wider unionisation of workers would reduce the number of disputes that ended up at tribunal.

“One of the consequences of the reduction in collective bargaining has been more people looking to the law for remedies,” he said.

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