Have you been unfairly sacked from your job? Were you fired for some stupid reason? Do you feel that your employer was just waiting for an excuse to get you off his books in the cheapest manner possible? Well, if any of these situations apply to you, you may be thinking of taking some form of action. After all, you’ve been hard done by. You’ve put in the hours, never had a single warning in your entire career with the company and you’re damned if you’re going to throw in the towel just like that. Right?
Right. That action you’re thinking about is called, in this case, the Industrial Tribunal. I mean there really isn’t much more that you can do, short of strangling your former boss – which I strongly advise against. So far, so good. Now it’s how you go about the next step, that’s really, really important. You see right ahead of you, lies a fork in the road. Option one: you can opt to have your union represent you – normally they’ll be using their own lawyer. This service is free of charge. In other words, as a union member you won’t be paying a cent for any of the proceedings right up until judgement. I mean, the union, bless its little cotton socks, is after all doing its noble duty. Speaking up for the downtrodden and the unfortunate and abused working classes, is, after all, its raison d’etre and you can bet your bottom dollar that no self-respecting union worth is salt would ever be swayed by the employers’ labour-load and significant wage bill, be on tenterhooks because of some looming collective agreement or other or for the sake of jolly good ol’ industrial relations (nudge-nudge, wink-wink). So for all the reasons aforesaid, this option seems like a no brainer. In fact it might seem that you’d have to have no brain to go for the other option.
Now, the other option. Option two, as we shall call it, is to –wait for it – pay for a lawyer yourself and go the whole hog on your own. Sheer and utter madness, I hear you cry as you rend garments seized as you are by a terrible palsy in the biblical throes of an apoplectic frenzy. Indeed. However, you may well want to think that option again after you read the judgement delivered by our learned and highly respected Judge Anthony Ellul in the names Raymond Micallef vs Trellerborg Sealing Solution Malta Limited, decided on the 22.09.2017.
The plaintiff was assisted by the union in his tiff with his former employer before the Industrial Tribunal. Though the Tribunal said he was dismissed unfairly, rebuked the company for sacking an employee when a warning would have sufficed to discipline a 17-year long employee of the company, he was finally awarded pittance. The company in effect was, by comparison, actually rewarded for having terminated his employment. So he appealed, this time engaging his own lawyer (Ahem!).
Remember that union representation I spoke about before? Good. Keep remembering it because it’s just about to come in handy. The Court of Appeal examined the proceedings of the Tribunal and found evidence to be sorely lacking. And though the appellant mounted a valiant appeal, the Court was adamant that evidence not introduced during the Tribunal stage couldn’t be introduced during an appeal. The Court agreed that the appellant was right to believe having been given short-shrift, but couldn’t blame the Tribunal either because the Tribunal didn’t have any evidence on salaries and wages to go on, which is why it’s award was so low. And what wasn’t done before the first court, couldn’t then be done during the second.
Now if you don’t believe me, you can go and read the whole thing for yourself: