by Dave Smith, blacklisted former construction worker
by David Renton
Pluto Press, £17.50
Anyone who’s been a trade unionist as long as I have will have lost count of the speeches they’ve heard haranguing “out of touch” judges.
They will be familiar with condemnations of employment laws passed “by the ruling class to protect the ruling class”.
But at the same time we quote breaches of regulations as if the law could save us from redundancies or discrimination.
Media myths encourage inflated expectations that courts will deliver justice, or at least considerable financial compensation.
The truth is that in most cases they won’t. And David Renton explains why.
He provides a history and a withering critique of the employment tribunal system, using official documents and experiences from real life cases.
He goes through every step of the process—from filling in the first “ET1” form to the miniscule compensation awarded to successful claimants.
Renton shows why the system repeatedly fails to deliver satisfactory outcomes.
Whether it’s unfair dismissal or discrimination claims, this book explains how the system is stacked against workers even when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing.
It was written before the recent changes to the tribunal system. These changes will only make things worse.
Renton has experience both as a lawyer and in the trade union movement.
This gives him the opportunity to see the system from two distinct points of view. It is what makes the book so insightful and so useful.
Employment rights are best defended by building strong trade union organisation, using mobilisation in the workplace and collective bargaining to protect workers’ interests.
Struck Out comes as a much-needed polemic against an overreliance on employment tribunals to deliver justice for workers.
At a time when trade union finances are being stretched, let’s hope the book provokes a debate about where resources should be targeted.
(published in Socialist Worker, 12 May 2012)