CHARLOTTE MONRO TRIBUNAL ENDS – A FIGHT WELL FOUGHT
Report from Charlotte’s Employment Tribunal 20 March 2015
from Reinstate Charlotte Monro Campaign
Charlotte Monro’s tribunal hearing finished this week and the panel is now considering the outcome. The public seats were packed with colleagues, campaigners, friends, family who came to give support and sat gripped through the hours of evidence. The legal team provided by her union UNISON did a fantastic job. For all of us who were there it has been a powerful experience.
Listening to the evidence it became clear that Charlotte had been dismissed because she was an effective trade union rep who had spoken out in a public and that the disciplinary process and sacking were initiated by the senior leadership team or HR and not by her own manager.
The current difficulties Whipps Cross Hospital and Barts Health Trust are in is headline news. An exodus of experienced staff and heavy reliance on agency workers has, as people feared, impacted on patient care. The Care Quality Commission is clear the problem lies in a cultural and leadership issue not with front line staff, and points to the 2013 down banding of nursing staff. Charlotte’s suspension from key trade union duties took place as this was being prepared. Her dismissal cannot in our view be separated from of the culture of bullying and intimidation that has continued to put staff in fear of speaking out.
Reinstatement of Charlotte would be a very real step in moving away from this negative culture and we believe would help to restore staff morale at Whipps Cross.
In the course of the tribunal very important questions have been explored.
On the last day the Trust formally conceded that Charlotte’s speaking at scrutiny committee did amount to a protected disclosure (whistle blowing). She had spoken of concerns over cuts to the excellent Whipps Cross stroke service.
The judge said the tribunal would consider whether or not disciplinary action on any of the other issues would be likely to have been taken if it were not for the claimant speaking at scrutiny, and noted that it was within days of this the disciplinary process was launched.
On the question of a trade union rep talking to staff about their jobs being at risk before the official launch of consultation, the judge identified the potential conflict of interest between the obligations of TU representatives to the people they represent, and an obligation of confidentiality set by an employer.
Charlotte’s past convictions and the fact that they were spent convictions other than in the specific employment context where they should have been declared was a point of focus for the tribunal. The judge was clearly of the view that the specific context of political protests etc. and the circumstances should have been takin into account in considering whether they were relevant to her present employment and long successful career.
Charlotte’s barrister submitted that her dismissal for not declaring spent convictions was a breach of article eight of the human rights act, the right to private and family life. She explained that work is part of a person’s private life because it becomes part of your identity, and that once a conviction is spent it becomes part of private life; therefore a decision to refuse NHS employment (or to dismiss an employee) as a result of spent convictions must be considered very carefully and taken only if genuinely necessary e.g. because of risk to patients. Charlotte’s managers, provided evidence that they were completely confident that Charlotte posed no risk to patients and public; on the contrary they stated that she did her job extremely well and demonstrated great integrity.
The dismissal was therefore argued to be a breach of Bart’s duty as a public body to uphold human rights.
It was with great concern that we noticed that at least 6 other staff members from Bart’s were at the Tribunal premises attending their own Employment Tribunals at the same time as Charlotte.
We await the result of the Employment Tribunal