Weaver v NATFHE

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Weaver v National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education [1988] ICR 599 EAT is a UK labour law case, concerning racial discrimination.

Facts[edit]

The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education refused to give advice or assistance to a woman lecturer who wanted to bring a claim for racial harassment[1] against a fellow worker at Bournville College of Further Education because the worker could lose his job. It was then the policy of the Union not to support a case against a Union member if that member's job could be put at risk.

A Flight into the Cuckoo’s Nest is a detailed account of the harassment of an Asian woman lecturer at Bournville College, Birmingham, and the actions of lay officers and officials in the lecturers’ union – NATFHE, to cover up the issue. The extent of their actions and the manufactured schemes to pressurise the victim into submission were straight out of Machiavelli’s handbook. The Birmingham Labour Council, with overall responsibility for the workplace conditions of College of Further Education employees, was also involved in trying to bury the case because of its implications. This account exposes the limitations of those presenting themselves as anti-racists. The main concern of this vanguard, wrapped up in the robes of the Broad Left Coalition, was to protect their political associates and the image of the union – a form of union patriotism overriding their purported commitment to a racism-free society. As the pressure mounted on the victim, many others in the college and the union simply looked the other way. Part of the case (Weaver v NATFHE) caused a stir among trade unions, members of parliament and anti-racist organisations, when they became aware of NATFHE’s racially discriminatory policy, exposed at Industrial and Employment Appeal Tribunals, to defend harassers whose tenure was at risk due to their actions. The complete details of this four year case is preceded by NATFHE’s earlier failings to develop an effective anti-racist commitment, exposed during the Fernandes affair, and its later failing in the Shahrokni case. The Deman v AUT case is also covered. The comprehensive account of this case can be downloaded for free at www.theplebeian.net [1]

Judgment[edit]

The Employment Tribunal upheld the trade union’s decision not to assist, on the grounds that the Union's policy was justifiable, even if the case involved allegations of race discrimination. The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed the appeal against that decision. [2]

The case is cited in Harvey's Industrial Relations and Employment Law: "union justified in not assisting applicants discrimination claim since it would have jeopardised the job of a fellow member." [3]

The Industrial Tribunal's judgement was that NATFHE could rely on the justification defence, which was that it had a legitimate duty (in light of its then policy) to protect the tenure of its members, to avoid conflicts in its representation of members and to avoid breaches of obligations to members whose tenure is at risk which outweighs the limited discriminatory effect of the condition imposed.As the Tribunal stated, "There is no evidence whatsoever that the union imposed the condition in race cases any differently than in cases of assault or theft or sexual harassment.”

Lord Triesman contributed to establishing the extant precedent.[2]

The Employment Appeal Tribunal, chaired by Justice Popplewell, upheld the Industrial Tribunal decision, as did Lord Justice May in an application for the case to be heard before the Court of Appeal.

For a comprehensive account of the Weaver harassment case at Bournville College, Birmingham, entitled A Flight into the Cuckoo's Nest [2]

Notes[edit]