RMT and Thompsons win case against Churchill Cleaning Services


The RMT has won an unfair dismissal case against an employee who was fired after he blew the whistle on his manager.

William Etchells, who worked for Churchill Cleaning Services Limited – contractors on the Tyne and Wear Metro – was dismissed in March after providing an honest critique of the mismanagement of his shift.

He did did this by completing a comments box provided to him on his time sheet. The employer took an exception to the comments provided especially as the comments could be viewed by the employer’s client when they audited their paperwork.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: |”This is a massive victory, not just for William Etchells and RMT but for the whole working class and shows that when your colleagues take action in your support you can fight back against these cheapskate companies who think they can hire and fire at will. RMT will now concentrate its efforts on the fight for pay justice for the Churchill’s cleaners on Tyne and Wear Metro.”

Staff were balloted and took industrial action in support of William Etchells alongside action over poverty pay.

Michael Howson from Thompsons Solicitors said: “We are delighted that the Employment Tribunal saw through Churchill’s story and delivered this just and equitable decision. We send our congratulations to Mr Etchells and his union for his successful fight for justice.”

RMT regional officer Micky Thompson said: “RMT is delighted that the Employment Tribunal has found in favour of Brother Etchell’s, I know personally that the last five months have been quite agonising for him, but given today’s result he may now be able to place the matter behind him and concentrate upon his future.

“Today’s result only confirms the reasons for our Industrial Action. Members of the travelling public and in particular the media now know that Churchill Contract Services operates the Tyne & Wear Metro Cleaning Contract in a draconian and punitive manner, by attempting to install fear and reprisals amongst the workforce. Nexus and DB Regio, operators of the Tyne & Wear system, should take note of this decision and review as to whom they award contracts to in the future.

“Finally, I would like to pay tribute to Thompson’s Solicitiors and in particular Michael Howson who undertook sterling efforts in the representation of out member.”

On Friday the Tribunal declared Etchells’ dismissal to be unfair on the following grounds:

i. The employer failed to establish that they genuinely believed that Brother Etchells had committed an act of gross misconduct as evidenced by the fact that they continually changed the reason for dismissal throughout the entire disciplinary process;

ii. That the employer failed to investigate, in any reasonable capacity, the allegations they were making or Brother Etchells’ genuine and accurate criticisms of his management that day;

iii. The employer failed to investigate and establish that Brother Etchells knew that the time sheets could be viewed by their client and thus failed to investigate their own allegation;

iv. That the employer failed to establish any grounds for believing that Brother Etchells had committed an act of gross misconduct especially as his comments were neither abusive nor insulting and were merely a critique of his work that day;

v. The Tribunal determined that the sanction of dismissal was grossly disproportionate to the offence and that a reasonable employer could never have come to the same decision as Churchill;

vi. The Tribunal also described Churchill’s dismissal procedure as “sloppy” in view of the changing reason for dismissal, entire lack of an investigation and the inconsistent approach taken between the dismissal and appeal officers.

The Tribunal also found that the employer may have just used this incident as an excuse to dismiss Etchells as they could not reasonably have believed that he had committed an act of gross misconduct.

Etchells was victimised by the employer in that they were willing to use any reason to dismiss him as his manager had clearly taken a dislike to him.

The Tribunal has compensated Mr Etchells for his full loss of earnings and awarded him £3,935.54.


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