Union's Go-Ahead for Hearing over PS1,200 Employment Tribunal Fees; CHARGES SEEN AS ATTACK ON RIGHTS

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Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON Political Editor david.williamson@walesonline.co.uk

TRADE union Unison has won permission to seek a judicial review over controversial new fees for workers taking an employment tribunal case.

Unison said the High Court gave the go-ahead for a hearing to be held in October, although it expressed disappointment that its challenge could not be held before the charges of up to PS1,200 for cases of unfair dismissal and discrimination came into force yesterday. Unions and employment lawyers predicted "chaos".

Martin Mansfield, general secretary of the Wales TUC, condemned the introduction of the fees, saying: "Today is a great day for Britain's worst bosses. By charging up-front fees for harassment and abuse claims, the government is making it easier for employers to get away with the most appalling behaviour.

"These reforms are part of a wider campaign to get rid of workers' basic rights at work. Its only achievement will be to price vulnerable people out of justice."

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Elfyn Llwyd MP said: "I believe that these fees in general are far too high. In particular, the fee of PS1,200 for employment tribunals is extortionate and completely unreasonable.

"The long-term intent here is to privatise the courts, a wholly regressive move that will see ordinary people being denied access to justice. If the severe cuts to legal aid didn't endanger people's ability to secure full and fair legal representation, then this ill-judged proposal certainly will."

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "What we are seeing today is injustice writ large as this worker-bashing Government takes a sledgehammer to workers' rights - this is a throwback to Victorian times... we estimate that this will affect 150,000 workers a year."

Elizabeth George, a barrister in the employment team at law firm Leigh Day, warned: "This sends a very dangerous message to employers who will be less inclined to abide by their legal obligations as the risk of being challenged will be much reduced. …